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The Ottoman Empire

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The Ottoman Empire


Greenwood Guides to Historic Events, 1500–1900

Linda S. Frey and Marsha L. Frey, Series Editors

Westport, Connecticut  London
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Kia, Mehrdad.
The Ottoman Empire / Mehrdad Kia.
p. cm.—(Greenwood guides to historic events, 1500–1900, ISSN 1538-442X)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-313-34440-4 (alk. paper)
1. Turkey—History—Ottoman Empire, 1288–1918. I. Title.
DR485.K53 2008
9560 .015—dc22 2008024123
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data is available.
C 2008 by Mehrdad Kia

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be

reproduced, by any process or technique, without the
express written consent of the publisher.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2008024123
ISBN: 978-0-313-34440-4
ISSN: 1538-442X
First published in 2008
Greenwood Press, 88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881
An imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.
Printed in the United States of America

The paper used in this book complies with the

Permanent Paper Standard issued by the National
Information Standards Organization (Z39.48–1984).
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Every reasonable effort has been made to trace the owners of copyrighted materials in this book,
but in some instances this has proven impossible. The author and publisher will be glad to
receive information leading to more complete acknowledgments in subsequent printings of the
book and in the meantime extend their apologies for any omissions.
This book is dedicated to my father, Dr. Sadeq Kia, my mother,
Kiadokht Kia, my brother, Dr. Ardeshir Kia, and my best friend, Cameron
Kia Weix for their unlimited love and support
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Series Foreword by Linda S. Frey and Marsha L. Frey ix

Preface xiii
Acknowledgments xv
Note on Pronunciation, Transliteration, and Spelling xvii
Chronology of Ottoman History xix
Sultans of the Ottoman Empire xxxi

Chapter 1 Historical Overview 1

Chapter 2 Founders of the Empire 17
Chapter 3 Zenith of Ottoman Power 39
Chapter 4 Decline of the Empire 59
Chapter 5 Traditional Reforms and Territorial
Dismemberment 71
Chapter 6 European Imperialism and the Drive to Reform 95
Chapter 7 From Tanzimat to Autocratic Modernization 115
Chapter 8 The Young Turk Revolution and the Fall of the
Ottoman Empire 137
Biographies 155
Primary Documents 165
Glossary of Selected Terms 181
Annotated Bibliography 185
Index 193
Photographs follow page 154.

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In 1500, an acceleration of key trends marked the beginnings of
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Series Foreword
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affect us. It has been a particularly enriching experience to work
closely with such dedicated professionals. We have come to know and
value even more highly the authors in this series and our editors at
Greenwood, particularly Kevin Ohe and Michael Hermann. In many
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cases they have become more than colleagues; they have become
friends. To them and to future historians we dedicate this series.
Linda S. Frey
University of Montana
Marsha L. Frey
Kansas State University
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This book is intended as an introductory survey of the political history

of the Ottoman state from the last decade of the thirteenth century to
the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. The Ottoman state
expanded from its original home in the district of S€ ogu
€t in western
Anatolia to incorporate vast territories and to rule other peoples. Each
territorial acquisition resulted in the absorption and incorporation of
native communities who contributed to the empire’s economic power
and cultural richness. Indeed, throughout much of its history, the Otto-
man Empire remained a mosaic of ethnic, linguistic, and religious
groups. Each group possessed its own history, culture, language, reli-
gious customs, and traditions. Aside from the Turks, there were Hun-
garians, Serbs, Bosnians, Montenegrins, Albanians, Greeks, Bulgarians,
Romanians, Tatars, Jews, Kurds, Arabs, Armenians, and many others
who were allowed to preserve their unique religious beliefs and cul-
tural practices. No account of the Ottoman Empire can, therefore,
claim to be comprehensive unless it covers the history of all the peo-
ples and communities, who contributed to the growth and prosperity
of this world power and its rich and diverse civilization.
Grasping and appreciating the complexities of this powerful
empire also requires looking at the Ottoman world through Ottoman
eyes. Such an approach necessitates a careful and in-depth study of
Ottoman archives. The Ottomans were diligent record keepers who left
a treasure house of documents behind. Non-Ottoman sources also
exist, such as diplomatic and consular reports, as well as numerous
books, essays, and articles by statesmen, diplomats, travelers, mission-
aries, and casual observers who wrote in many different languages on
various aspects of the Ottoman state and society. These sources are val-
uable and indeed essential in studying the Ottoman Empire, although
they frequently approach their subject with bias and prejudice, trying
to denigrate and dismiss the accomplishments of a Muslim enemy,
which at the height of its power ruled a vast empire from the gates of
Vienna to the mouth of the Persian Gulf. The present narrative, how-
ever, is a far more humble enterprise; it makes no pretense of using
original documents or offering bold new interpretations. It is designed
as an introduction, providing the reader who does not have any prior
knowledge or expertise on the subject with a brief and general over-
view of the political history of the Ottoman Empire.
Aside from the first chapter, which focuses on the institutions of
the empire, the remaining seven chapters follow a chronological order.
I have divided the history of the Ottoman Empire into several distinct
periods. The first begins at the formation of the Ottoman state by the
founder of the dynasty, Osman, in the last decade of the thirteenth cen-
tury, and extends to the defeat of the fourth Ottoman sultan, Bayezid I,
at the hands of the Central Asian world conqueror Timur in 1402, and
the civil war that followed among the sons of the vanquished sultan.
The second period begins with the resurgence of the Ottoman state in
1413 under Mehmed I and ends with the reign of S€ uleyman the Mag-
nificent in 1566, which signaled the golden age of Ottoman power and
civilization. The third period, which marked the beginning of the
decline of Ottoman power, starts with the reign of Selim II (1566–
1574) and ends with the reign of Murad IV (1623–1640). The fourth
period, which witnessed the defeat of Ottoman armies at the hands of
European states, focuses on a century and a half that began with the
accession of Murad IV in 1623 and ended with the signing of the
humiliating Treaty of K€ uç€
uk Kaynarca with Russia in 1774. The fifth
period, which begins with the reign of Selim III in 1789 and ends with
the death of Mahmud II in 1839, witnessed the introduction of govern-
mental reforms by the Ottoman state and the rise of the first nationalist
movements among the empire’s Christian European subjects. The sixth
period, or the age of modern reforms, began with the reign of Sultan
Abd€ ulmecid in 1839 and culminated with the Young Turk revolution
in 1908. The final chapter covers the period between 1908 and 1922,
which ended with the collapse and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire
after its defeat in the First World War.

The idea for this book came from my friend and colleague, Professor
Linda Frey of The University of Montana, who read the entire mono-
graph several times and offered mountains of incisive suggestions and
revisions. Without the patience, encouragement, and unlimited sup-
port from the general editors, Professor Linda Frey and Professor
Marsha Frey, I would not have been able to complete this project. For
generosity of time and spirit I owe a special debt of gratitude to Ardi
Kia, Andrea Olsen, and Thomas Goltz, who provided me with assis-
tance in the preparation of this book. I also thank Khaled Huthaily,
Amal Huthaily, Adnan Misbahi, and Brian Lofink of the Central and
Southwest Asia Program at The University of Montana for the many
forms of technical assistance they provided toward putting the manu-
script into final form. Finally, I thank my friends and colleagues, Rick
and Susie Graetz of The University of Montana, for allowing me to use
their beautiful photographs in this book. Needless to say, none of these
colleagues bears responsibility for what I have written, but all of them
have contributed significantly to the completion of this book. What I
owe to my family for their love, patience, and support cannot be
adequately expressed. This book is dedicated to them.
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The multiplicity of languages used in the Ottoman Empire and the vari-
eties of spelling that were adopted throughout centuries present a num-
ber of problems, making complete consistency impossible. With a few
exceptions, I have used the modern Turkish spelling system. I have not,
however, applied Turkish spellings and pronunciations to non-Turkish
words. Thus, Sharif (Arabic) has not been spelled as Şerif (Turkish);
likewise, Shah (Persian) has not been spelled as Şah (Turkish).

c (Turkish) j (English)
cE (Turkish) ch (English)
€ (Turkish)
o € (German)
+ (Turkish) sh (English)
u€ (Turkish) € (German)
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1040 The Seljuk Empire is established in Iran.

1071 At the battle of Manzikert (Malazgird), the Seljuks
defeat the Byzantine army.
1075–1308 Seljuk Sultanate of Anatolia.
1243 Mongols defeat the Seljuks of Rum at the battle of
1258 Mongols sack the city of Baghdad, the seat of the Abbasid
1290–1326 Osman, the founder of the Ottoman dynasty.
1326 Orhan, the son of Osman and the second Ottoman ruler,
captures the Byzantine town of Bursa, declaring it the
new Ottoman capital.
1329 Orhan’s army defeats a Byzantine force under the
leadership of the Emperor Andronicus III at the Battle of
Pelekanon (Pelecanum) near Eskişehir.
1331 Orhan captures the town of Nicaea (Iznik).
1335 The end of the Mongol Il Khanid rule in Iran.
1337 Orhan captures the town of Nicomedia (Izmit).
1354 Orhan occupies Ankara and Gallipoli, thus establishing
a foothold in Europe.
1361 Prince Murad captures the important Byzantine city of
Adrianople (Edirne), declaring it the new Ottoman
Chronology of Ottoman History
1362 With the death of Orhan, his son ascends the throne
as Murad I.
1363–1365 Ottomans conquer Thrace and southern Bulgaria.
1371 Ottomans are victorious over Serbian forces at
1385 Sofia is captured. The Bulgarian king accepts Ottoman
1386 Niş (Nish) is captured.
1387 Thessaloniki (Salonica) is captured.
1388 A coalition of Bosnians, Serbs, and Bulgarians defeat the
Ottomans at Plosnik (Ploshnik).
1389 At the Battle of Kosovo Polje (Field of Blackbirds),
Ottoman forces defeat the combined forces of Serbia,
Bosnia, and Albania led by the Serbian king, Lazar.
Although Murad I is killed during the battle, the
Ottoman victory brings Serbia under Ottoman rule.
Bayezid I, known by his title Yildirim (Thunderbolt),
son of Murad I, is declared sultan.
1390 Bayezid I expands Ottoman territory in Anatolia by
defeating the Karamanids.
1395 Bayezid expands Ottoman territory into Wallachia
(present day Romania).
1396 At the Battle of Nicopolis, Ottoman forces inflict a
humiliating defeat on a European crusading army.
1402 At the Battle of Ankara, the Central Asian conqueror
Timur defeats the Ottoman army and captures Sultan
Bayezid, who dies in 1403.
1402–1413 Interregnum. The sons of Bayezid fight over the remains
of their father’s empire.
1413 Mehmed I ascends the Ottoman throne after defeating
his brothers.
1421–1444 Murad II consolidates the territorial gains of Mehmed I.
1423–1430 Ottoman forces fight Venice for control of Thessaloniki
Chronology of Ottoman History
1425 Ottomans recapture the Turcoman Principalities of
Menteşe and Teke in western Anatolia.
1439 Ottomans annex Serbia.
1443 Hungary invades the Balkans.
1444 At the Battle of Varna, Ottoman forces score an
impressive victory against the Hungarians and their
allies. Murad II abdicates after the battle, and his son,
Mehmed II, replaces his father for two years. Murad
returns to power in 1446.
1451 Mehmed II becomes the sultan for the second time.
1453 Mehmed II captures Constantinople and receives the
title of Fatih (The Conqueror).
1456 Ottomans fail to capture Belgrade.
1459 Ottomans conquer Serbia.
1460 Conquest of Morea.
1461 Conquest of the Empire of Trebizond, an important
commercial center on the Black Sea.
1463 Mehmed II conquers Bosnia.
1463–1479 Ottoman war with Venice.
1466 Mehmed II attacks Albania.
1468 Conquest of Karaman principality in southern Anatolia.
1473 At the Battle of Başkent, Mehmed II defeats Uzun Hasan,
the leader of the Ak Koyunlu Turcomans, who ruled a
significant part of Iran and eastern Anatolia.
1475 Crimea’s Tatar Khan accepts Ottoman suzerainty.
Genoese colonies in Crimea are conquered.
1480 Ottoman forces land at Otranto.
1481 Upon the death of Mehmed II, his son Bayezid II ascends
the throne.
1484 War with Mamluks of Egypt, which continues until 1491.
1499 Ottomans wage war on Venice, which continues until
1503, conquering Lepanto, Coron, and Modon.
1512 Selim I succeeds his father, Bayezid II.
Chronology of Ottoman History
1514 Ottoman armies defeat the Iranian Safavid monarch,
Ismail I, in the battle of Chaldiran northeast of Lake
Van. Tabriz is occupied before Selim I is forced by his
janissary corps to withdraw.
1516–1517 Ottoman forces capture Diyarbakir and incorporate the
Dulkadir/Dulgadir principality in eastern Anatolia before
defeating the Mamluk armies of Egypt at Marc D^abik/
Marj D^abiq. Selim I captures Syria and Egypt. Mecca,
Medina, and Jerusalem fall under Ottoman rule, and the
sultan claims the title of the protector of the holy sites of
1520–1566 The reign of S€
uleyman, known to Europeans as S€ uleyman
the Magnificent and by his subjects as S€
uleyman K^ anuni
or the Lawgiver, brings the Ottoman state to the zenith of
its power.
1521 S€
uleyman captures the strategic fortress of Belgrade and
opens the road to Hungary.
1522 Siege of Rhodes, the last bastion of the European
crusades, which surrenders to the Ottomans in January
1526 Ottoman victory at the battle of Mohacs and the death of
the Hungarian king makes Hungary a vassal state.
1529 The first siege of Vienna.
1533 Hayreddin Paşa (Barbarossa or Barbaros) captures Tunis
in North Africa.
1533–1534 S€
uleyman invades Iran. Tabriz and Baghdad are captured
by Ottoman forces.
1535 Tabriz is recaptured by S€
1537 War with Venice, which continues until 1540.
1548 S€
uleyman invades Iran.
1553–1555 War with Iran, Peace Treaty of Amasya between Ottoman
Empire and Safavid Iran.
1565 Siege of Malta.
1566 Selim II succeeds his father, Sultan S€
1567–1570 Conquest of Yemen.
Chronology of Ottoman History
1569 France is granted capitulations. Ottoman siege of
1570 Ottomans capture Tunis.
1571 The conquest of the island of Cyprus is completed. At
the Battle of Lepanto, the Ottoman navy suffers a defeat
at the hands of the Holy League, the combined
naval forces of Europe’s Christian powers led
by Don Juan.
1573 Peace with Venice.
1574 Ottomans recapture Tunis. Murad III becomes sultan.
1578 Morocco comes under Ottoman protection. Murad III
uses the chaos following the death of the Safavid
monarch, Shah Tahmasp, to invade Iran.
1579–1587 Ottoman control over the Caucasus, which was
challenged by Safavids and their Georgian allies, is
1580 Capitulations granted to English merchants.
1589 Janissaries revolt in Istanbul.
1592–1606 War with the Habsburgs.
1595–1603 Mehmed III.
1596–1609 Celali revolts erupt in Anatolia.
1603–1617 Ahmed I.
1603 War with Iran begins and continues until 1618.
1606 Peace of Zsitvatorok (Zsitva-Torok) with the
1609 Suppression of the Celali revolts in Anatolia.
1617 Ahmed’s brother Mustafa I ascends the Ottoman
1618 Mustafa I is deposed. Osman II is declared the new
sultan. Ottoman Empire and Iran sign a peace treaty, and
Ottoman forces withdraw from Azerbaijan.
1621 Ottoman forces invade Poland.
1622 Janissaries revolt. Osman II is dethroned and later
murdered. Mustafa I is restored to the throne.
Chronology of Ottoman History
1623 Abaza Mehmed Paşa’s revolt begins in Anatolia. Mustafa I
is dethroned and replaced by Murad IV.
1624 The Iranian Safavid monarch, Shah Abbas, invades Iraq.
Abaza Mehmed Paşa’s rebel army is defeated.
1626 The second revolt of Abaza Mehmed in Anatolia.
1628 Surrender of Abaza Mehmed Paşa.
1629 Ottoman campaign to recapture Baghdad from Iran.
1630 Ottoman victory in Iran. The Ottomans fail to capture
1633 Repulsion of Iranian forces attacking Van in eastern
1635 Murad IV invades Iran and captures Erivan and occupies
1636 Erivan is taken by Iran.
1638 Murad IV captures Baghdad.
1639 Treaty of Qasr-i Shirin with Iran.
1640 Death of Murad IV and enthronement of Ibrahim I.
1642 Azov is recaptured.
1645 Campaign against the island of Crete.
1648 Sultan Ibrahim is deposed and strangled. Mehmed IV
ascends the throne.
1651 The powerful K€osem Sultan who dominated the imperial
harem is executed.
1656 Venetians invade and occupy Lemnos and Tenedos.
Mehmed K€ opr€
u becomes the grand vezir. Abaza Hasan
Paşa revolts.
1657 Ottomans recapture Lemnos and Tenedos from the
1658 Ottoman control over Transylvania is reestablished.
1661 With the death of the grand vezir Mehmed K€ opr€
u, his
son, Fazil Ahmed K€ opr€
u, replaces his father.
1663 War with the Habsburgs.
1664 Ottomans are defeated by Habsburgs at the Battle of St.
Gotthard. Peace of Vasvar.
Chronology of Ottoman History
1669 Fall of Crete. Peace with Venice.
1672 War with Poland, which continues until the Treaty of
Zuravno (Zorawno) of 1676.
1676 With the death of Fazil Ahmed K€opr€ul€u, his brother-
in-law, Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa, becomes the grand
1683 Second siege of Vienna by the Ottomans fails. Ottoman
forces are routed by Jan Sobieski.
1684 A Holy League comprising the Habsburgs, Venice,
Poland, the Pope, Malta, and Tuscany is organized against
the Ottoman Empire.
1686 Fall of Buda. Russia joins the Holy League. Venice
captures Morea.
1687 Second Battle of Mohacs. The Habsburgs defeat the
Ottoman Empire. The army revolts. Mehmed IV is
deposed. S€
uleyman II ascends the throne.
1688 Habsburgs take Belgrade.
1689 Habsburgs invade Kosovo. Russia invades Crimea.
1690 Belgrade is recaptured by Ottoman forces.
1691 Ahmed II ascends the throne and rules until 1695. Battle
of Slankamen during which the grand vezir Fazil Mustafa
u is killed.
1695 Mustafa II ascends the Ottoman throne.
1697 Habsburgs defeat the Ottomans at the Battle of Zenta.
1699 Treaty of Karlowitz.
1700 Peace with Russia.
1703 Mustafa II is deposed and Ahmed III ascends the throne.
1711 Defeat of the Russian army under Peter the Great at the
Battle of Pruth.
1712 Peace treaty with Russia. Azov is recovered.
1714 War with Venice over Morea.
1715 Ottomans recapture Morea.
1716 War with the Habsburgs.
1717 Habsburgs capture Belgrade.
Chronology of Ottoman History
1718–1730 Nevşehirli Damad Ibrahim Paşa serves as grand vezir
(The Tulip Period).
1718 Treaty of Passarowitz.
1723 Ottomans invade and occupy Georgia, Azerbaijan, and
large parts of western Iran until 1727.
1730 Rebellion of Patrona Halil in Istanbul. Sultan Ahmed III is
deposed, and the Tulip Period comes to an end.
1730–1754 Mahmud I rules.
1736–1739 War with the Habsburgs and Russia.
1739 Ottomans recapture Belgrade. Treaty of Belgrade with the
Habsburgs and Russia.
1740 Ottomans grant capitulations to France.
1743 War with Iran continues until 1746 when peace is
concluded and the boundaries that were established by
the Treaty of Qasr-i Shirin are restored.
1754–1757 Osman III rules.
1757 Mustafa III ascends the Ottoman throne.
1768 Ottoman Empire declares war on Russia.
1771 Russia invades and occupies Crimea.
1774 War with Russia ends in the Treaty of K€
uk Kaynarca.
Crimea and the northern coast of the Black Sea fall under
Russian domination.
1774–1789 Abd€ulhamid I rules. The sultan introduces reforms in the
government and army.
1776 Iran captures Basra.
1783 Crimea is annexed to the Russian Empire.
1787–1792 War with Russia.
1788–1791 War with the Habsburgs.
1789 Selim III ascends the Ottoman throne and initiates a new
era of governmental and military reforms, which
continue until 1807.
1791 Treaty of Sistova with the Habsburgs.
1792 Treaty of Jassy (Yassy) with Russia.
Chronology of Ottoman History
1798 Napoleon Bonaparte invades Egypt, forcing the Ottoman
Empire to ally with Russia and Great Britain
1803–1849 Muhammad Ali Paşa (Mehmed Ali) rules Egypt.
1804 Serbia revolts.
1807 Selim III is deposed after janissaries lead a revolt against
his new army, Niz^ am-i Cedı̂d. Mustafa IV ascends the
Ottoman throne.
1808 Selim III is assassinated before Bayrakd^ar Mustafa Paşa
can restore him. Mustafa is deposed and Mahmud II
ascends the Ottoman throne. The new sultan signs
Sened-i Ittifak. Janissaries kill Bayrakd^ar Mustafa Paşa.
Execution of Mustafa IV.
1811 Muhammad Ali puts an end to the Mamluks in Egypt.
1812 Treaty of Bucharest with Russia.
1820 War with the Qajar dynasty in Iran, which continues
until 1823.
1821 Greek movement for independence begins.
1822 The Ottomans kill Tepedelenli Ali Paşa (Ali Paşa of
1823 Treaty of Erzurum with Iran.
1826 Mahmud II destroys the janissaries.
1828–1829 War with Russia.
1830 France occupies Algeria.
1831 Syria is conquered by Muhammad Ali’s Egyptian army.
1832 At the battle of Konya, Muhammad Ali’s forces defeat the
Ottoman army and reach K€ utahya.
1833 Treaty of H€
unk^ar-Iskelesi with Russia.
1838 Anglo-Ottoman Trade Agreement.
1839 Abd€ ulmecid ascends the throne and issues the Hatt-i
Şerif-i G€
ulhane (The Noble Edict of the Rose Garden),
which inaugurates the Tanzimat (Reform) era.
1840 Muhammad Ali’s dynasty is established in Egypt.
1853–1856 Crimean War.
Chronology of Ottoman History
1856 Hatt-i H€
ayun (Imperial Reform Edict). The Treaty of
1861 Abd€
ulaziz ascends the Ottoman throne.
1865 Formation of Young Ottomans.
1866–1868 Greek nationalist revolt in Crete.
1869 Suez Canal opens.
1876 Abd€ ulaziz is deposed and Murad V ascends the Ottoman
throne. Murad V is deposed and replaced by Abd€ ulhamid
II. The first Ottoman constitution.
1877 The Ottoman constitution is abolished by
ulhamid II.
1877–1878 War with Russia.
1878 Treaty of San Stefano. Congress of Berlin. Serbia,
Bulgaria, and Romania become independent states.
1881 France occupies Tunisia. Albanian revolt suppressed by
Ottoman troops.
1882 The British forces invade and occupy Egypt.
1884 The former grand vezir, Midhat Paşa, is murdered.
1885 Bulgaria annexes East Rumelia.
1889 The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP)
is founded.
1890–1896 Attacks by Hamidiye regiments on Armenian
communities in Anatolia.
1896–1897 The insurrection in Crete and war with Greece.
1896 Armenian revolutionaries (Dashnaks) take over the
Imperial Ottoman Bank in Istanbul.
1908 The Young Turk Revolution and the restoration of the
1909 Abd€ulhamid II is deposed from the throne and replaced
by Mehmed V.
1910 Revolt in Yemen.
1911 War with Italy over Libya. Yemen is granted autonomy.
1912 The First Balkan War.
Chronology of Ottoman History
1913 The Second Balkan War. The Ottoman state is
increasingly dominated by the triumvirate of Enver Paşa,
Cemal Paşa, and Talat Paşa.
1914 Ottoman Empire enters World War I on the side of
Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
1915 The Constantinople Agreement, which partitions the
Ottoman Empire. Husayn-McMahon Correspondence.
The British promise an independent Arab state in return
for Sharif Husayn of Mecca and his sons leading a revolt
against the Ottoman Empire. Forced relocation of the
Armenian population. Allied landing at Gallipoli.
1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. The British and the French
partition the Ottoman Empire into spheres of influence.
1917 Balfour Declaration. The British government expresses its
support for the establishment of a national homeland for
the Jews.
1918 Faisal’s army enters Damascus. Mehmed VI ascends the
Ottoman throne. Mudros armistice. Allied occupation of
1919 Mustafa Kemal lands in Samsun.
1920 Treaty of Sevres.
1922 Turkish army defeats Greek forces in western Anatolia.
The Grand National Assembly abolishes the Ottoman
sultanate. Prince Abd€
ulmecid is declared caliph.
1923 Treaty of Lausanne. Republic of Turkey is established
with Mustafa Kemal (Atat€
urk) as its first president.
1924 The end of the caliphate in Turkey.
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Osman 1290–1326
Orhan 1326–1362
Murad I 1362–1389
Bayezid I 1389–1402
Interregnum 1402–1413
Mehmed I 1413–1421
Murad II 1421–1444
Mehmed II 1444–1446
Murad II 1446–1451
Mehmed II 1451–1481
Bayezid II 1481–1512
Selim I 1512–1520
uleyman I 1520–1566
Selim II 1566–1574
Murad III 1574–1595
Mehmed III 1595–1603
Ahmed I 1603–1617
Mustafa I 1617–1618
Osman II 1618–1622
Mustafa I 1622–1623
Murad IV 1623–1640
Ibrahim 1640–1648
Mehmed IV 1648–1687
uleyman II 1687–1691
Ahmed II 1691–1695
Mustafa II 1695–1703
Ahmed III 1703–1730
Mahmud I 1730–1754
Osman III 1754–1757
Mustafa III 1757–1774
Sultans of the Ottoman Empire

Abd€ulhamid I 1774–1789
Selim III 1789–1807
Mustafa IV 1807–1808
Mahmud II 1808–1839
Abd€ulmecid 1839–1861
Abd€ulaziz 1861–1876
Murad V 1876
Abd€ulhamid II 1876–1909
Mehmed V (Re+ad) 1909–1918
Mehmed VI (Vahideddin) 1918–1922
Abd€ulmecid IIj 1922–1924
Served only as Caliph

The emergence of the Ottoman Empire as a world power is one of the
most important events in the history of southeast Europe, the Middle
East, North Africa, and indeed the world. For more than five centuries,
the Ottomans ruled a large and powerful empire that held vast territo-
ries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. How did the Ottoman state expand
from a small principality in western Anatolia in 1290 to one of the larg-
est and most powerful empires the world had ever seen? The Ottoman
Empire was not only vast, but it also contained a mosaic of religious,
ethnic, and linguistic communities, including: Greeks, Serbs, Bosnians,
Hungarians, Albanians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Arabs, Turks, Arme-
nians, Kurds, and Jews. Each group possessed its own history, culture,
language, religious values, and traditions. To maintain the unity and integ-
rity of such a vast and internally diverse empire, the Ottomans could not
rule as a Muslim Turkish elite imposing its political will over a much
larger and diverse non-Turkic population. The ethnic and religious heter-
ogeneity of the empire as well as the geographical vastness and diversity
of its land mass required governmental institutions that would ensure the
cohesion and the unity of the state.
The Ottoman society was divided in accordance with two distinct
categories. The first division of the population organized the subjects
of the sultan into religious communities or millets. The second divided
the population according to their relationship with political power,
separating those who worked for the government and military from
those who did not.1 Ottoman society was divided into two distinct
classes, namely the askeri (the military or the ruling class) and the
ay^a (the flock or the subject class).2 The askeri was comprised of sev-
eral strata. The first were the Turcoman families who had fought with
the first Ottoman sultan and had played an important role in trans-
forming the state from a principality to a full-fledged empire. The sec-
ond were the ruling classes who had been conquered and then
incorporated into the Ottoman system. The third were those Christian
subjects of the sultan who were recruited into the system through
devşirme. The devşirme was the system of acquiring young Christian
children who were educated and trained to assume positions of power
in the imperial palace, the administration, or the kapi kulu (slaves of
the sultan). The fourth were the ulema, who were responsible for man-
aging the Islamic legal and educational institutions of the empire.3
Regardless of their ethnic and religious origins, each member of the
Ottoman ruling class had to be a Muslim. He also had to demonstrate
his loyalty to the sultan and be familiar with the customs, mannerisms,
and language that distinguished a member of the Ottoman ruling class
from the members of the subject class. As with the ruling class, the sub-
ject class or the re^
ay^a also consisted of several strata, which included
peasant farmers, manufacturers, and merchants who produced the
goods and paid taxes that sustained the state and the ruling dynasty.4
Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived side by side under the Otto-
man sultan, a Sunni Muslim Turk, who acted as the protector of all re-
ligious communities of the empire. Each community enjoyed religious,
cultural, and legal autonomy and managed its own internal affairs
under the leadership of its own religious hierarchy.5 The heads of the
religious communities were appointed by the sultan.6 The system
allowed the religious communities in the empire to coexist in relative
peace and harmony. It also provided the Ottoman sultan the opportu-
nity to claim that he treated all his subjects with generosity and benev-
olence regardless of their cultural and religious identity. At a time
when Europe was burning with the fervor of religious warfare between
Catholics and Protestants, a Muslim monarch could contend that
under his rule, Muslims, Jews, and Christians could practice their reli-
gions free of persecution. The tolerance displayed by the Ottoman sul-
tans did not mean that the Jews and Christians were viewed and
treated as equal to Muslims, however. In accordance with Islamic law
or Şeriat (Arabic: Sharia), Jews and Christians were ‘‘people of the
book’’ and considered zimmi (Arabic: dhimmi) or protected religious
communities, which lived under the authority of a Muslim sovereign.
The sultan was required to protect the lives and property of his Jewish
and Christian subjects. In return, his Jewish and Christian subjects
were obligated to remain loyal to him and pay the Ottoman govern-
ment a poll tax or cizye in return for not serving in the military. In all
legal matters, the Islamic law had precedence and Islamic courts were
open to all subjects of the sultan.7
The Christian population of the Ottoman Empire was heteroge-
neous. The Ottoman government recognized two principal Christian
millets, namely, the Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Gregorian.
Other Christian communities such as the Maronites, Nestorians, and
Syrian Orthodox were not recognized as millets, although for all
Historical Overview
practical purposes they functioned as autonomous religious commun-
ities under their own leaders.8 The Muslim population of the empire
was equally heterogeneous, but because Islam was the official religion
of the Ottoman Empire, the Muslims could not be considered a sepa-
rate millet. However, the Muslim community was organized in the
same manner as the Christian communities.9 The sultan appointed the
am as the head of the ulema, who were the experts and inter-
preters of the Islamic law. The muftis, who were the official interpreters
of Islamic law and issued legal opinions (fetvas), also came from the
ranks of the ulema, and they were assigned by the şeyh€ ulisl^
am to the
provinces of the empire. The k^ adis or judges, who enforced the Islamic
law and the k^ anun (the laws issued by the sultan) and administered
the courts throughout the empire, were also appointed by the
şeyh€ am.10
As the Ottoman state was transformed from a small principality
in western Anatolia into a full-fledged imperial power, the institutions
that had given rise to the early Ottoman fiefdom underwent a profound
transformation. The early Ottoman principality was based on the
active participation of charismatic Ottoman rulers who carried the title
of khan or han and acted as the chief g^ azi, a warrior who fights in the
name of Islam. Ottoman power and authority derived from Turkish no-
madic military units organized and led by the g^ azis who fought with
the Ottoman ruler. The Ottoman army was not only the backbone of
the state, but was the state itself. The seat of power was on the saddle
of the sultan, who organized and led the raids. His leadership required
him to visit and inspect the territory under his rule. As for the religious
orientation of the early Ottoman state, the Islam of the g^ azis lacked the
theological sophistication of the Muslim ulema, who dominated the
mosques and seminaries of Anatolia’s urban centers, such as Konya.
The Islam of the early Ottoman sultans was simple, personal, unortho-
dox, eclectic, and mystical.11 Not surprisingly, the tekkes (lodges) of
derviş (mystical) orders dominated the religious and spiritual life of
the frontier g^azis who were fighting with Osman, the founder of the
Ottoman dynasty, and his son Orhan. One of the earliest accounts of
Osman’s rise to power describes how he received a blessing from a
prominent mystical leader, Şeyh Edebali, who handed him the sword
of a g^azi and prophesized that his descendants would rule the world.12
When Osman died in 1326, the ceremony that decided the succession
of his son to the throne took place at a z^ aviye, a hospice run and man-
aged by dervişes for travelers.13 Orhan was the first Ottoman ruler to
assume the title of sultan, and his son Murad was the first to use the
title of H€ud^ ar, lord or emperor.14 In 1395, Sultan Bayezid added
the title of Sultan al-Rum or the Sultan of Byzantine lands.15 As the
power and the territorial possessions of the empire expanded, the
Ottoman sultans added new titles, such as p^ adişah (sovereign), but
never abandoned the title of g^ azi. With the creation of the empire and
the establishment of Ottoman power in the urban centers where Sunni
Islam dominated the social and cultural life of the Muslim community,
the state became increasingly identified with the official Islam of
the ulema, although the mystical traditions and practices were never
The succession to the Ottoman throne did not follow an estab-
lished procedure.16 In theory, the rise of a prince to the throne could
only be determined by the will of God.17 When a prince managed to
defeat the other contenders for the throne and gain the support of the
ulema, the army, and palace officials, he could ascend the throne and
seize the central treasury.18 The result of this power struggle was justi-
fied as a manifestation of divine support. The reigning sultan
appointed each of his sons to the governorship of a province. Each son
was accompanied by a tutor who advised him on the art of statecraft.
As provincial governors ruling from old Anatolian towns, the sons
built their own palaces and established their own courts, replicating
the royal palace and the imperial court in the capital.19 The tutors and
administrators who joined each prince were carefully selected from
among the loyal servants of the sultan and were expected to provide
their royal masters with information on the development and activities
of the prince to whom they were assigned.20 After the death of a sultan,
open warfare was a natural and expected phenomenon. After a new
sultan ascended the throne, he was expected to execute his brothers
and other male contenders to the throne.21 When there was only one
member of the royal family alive, all members of the government
remained loyal to him.
As the early Ottoman state expanded, acquired urban centers,
and established a court, Turkish nomadic practices were modified by
incorporating long established ancient Iranian, Islamic, and Greek im-
perial traditions. This did not mean that the Ottomans abandoned and
concealed their nomadic origins. The sultans continued to carry the
title of han or khan, which they had brought with them from their orig-
inal home in Central Asia.22 However, these traditions gradually gave
way to the more elaborate customs and practices of kingship borrowed
from pre-Islamic Sassanian Iran and the Byzantine Greeks. Indeed, the
genius of the early Ottoman rulers and their ministers was a pragmatic
approach that allowed them to borrow selectively and eclectically from
pre-Ottoman traditions and utilize what served their political, social,
and economic needs. As the state expanded its territory, the Ottomans
recognized the need to establish an administration that could reliably
Historical Overview
collect taxes and send them to the central treasury, which used the rev-
enue generated from agricultural production and trade to pay the
expenditures of the sultan and the palace.
Under the Ottoman political system, the sultan stood at the top of
the power pyramid. He was both the ‘‘temporal and spiritual leader,’’
who drew his authority from the Şeriat (Islamic law) and k^ anun (the
imperial law) and was obligated to preserve the peace, security, and
stability of the empire he ruled.23 The government itself was an exten-
sion of the sultan’s private household; government officials were the
personal servants of their royal master, who were appointed and dis-
missed in accordance with the sultan’s decision or momentary whim.
The ancient Iranian theory of the state provided the theoretical founda-
tions of the empire. According to this theory, to rule his domain, a king
needed an army. The creation and maintenance of an army, however,
demanded the creation of wealth that could only be produced by the
labor of the people. For people to produce wealth there had to be pros-
perity and peace. Peace and prosperity were, however, impossible
without justice and law, which required the presence of a ruler and a
strong army. This circular theory had been elaborated during the reign
of the pre-Islamic Iranian Sassanian monarchs and later modified and
adjusted according to Islamic traditions. It was further modified after
the arrival of Turkic nomadic groups from Central Asia in the eleventh
century and the establishment of Mongol rule in the thirteenth
The Ottoman political structure was divided into a central admin-
istration and a provincial administration. In accordance with the tradi-
tional Iranian–Islamic theory of kingship, the administration of justice
constituted the most important duty of a sovereign and his officials.
The failure to protect his subjects from injustice could justify the over-
throw of the government. The palace was the center of power and
served as the residence of the sultan. The Ottoman palace comprised
two principal sections: the enderun or inner section, and the birun or
outer section.25 The two sections were built around two large court-
yards, which were joined by the Gate of Felicity where the sultan sat
on his throne, received his guests, and attended ceremonies.26 The sul-
tan lived in the inner section of the palace, which was attached to the
royal harem. The harem comprised women’s apartments and was re-
served for the female members of the royal family, such as the mother
of the sultan (v^alide sultan) and his wives. Since proximity to the sultan
determined the power and the status of an individual, the sultan’s
attendants and servants, particularly the eunuchs who were responsi-
ble for the protection of the royal harem, exercised a great deal of influ-
ence in the government. Much of their power derived from their
ability to provide information to various factions in or outside the pal-
ace. Until the sixteenth century, the eunuchs were white males
recruited from the Caucasus region. Starting in the seventeenth cen-
tury, they were replaced by black eunuchs from the Sudan.27 The pal-
ace eunuchs were managed and supervised by the a ga/agha or the chief
of ‘‘the Abode of Felicity.’’28 Aside from the eunuchs, women of the
royal harem also played a prominent role in the political life of the pal-
ace. As the sultans began to rule from the harem, the power of those
who surrounded them, particularly their mothers and wives, increased.
They enjoyed direct access to the sultan and were in daily contact with
him. With the sultan spending less time in the battlefields and delegat-
ing his responsibilities to the grand vezir, the mothers and wives began
to emerge as the principal source of information and communication
between the harem and the outside world. They interfered in the inter-
nal factional fighting and rivalries within the ruling elite, forming alli-
ances with the grand vezir and army commanders.
The palace constituted the brain center of the empire. The divan-i
h€um^ayun, or the imperial council, which constituted the highest delib-
erative organ of the Ottoman government, met at the palace at fixed
times to listen to complaints from the subjects of the sultan. The coun-
cil comprised the grand vezir and his cabinet, which included the chief
of chancellery (niş^anci), who controlled the tugr^
a (the official seal of
the Ottoman state) and drew up and certified all official letters and
decrees, the chief of the Islamic judicial system (k^ azasker/k^ adiasker),
and the treasurers (defterd^ ars) of Anatolia and Rumeli (Ottoman
provinces in the Balkans).29 Until the reign of Mehmed II, the con-
queror of Constantinople, the sultan participated in the deliberations of
his ministers. As the power and the territory of the empire grew, the sul-
tan became increasingly detached and stopped participating in the meet-
ings of the div^an. Instead, a square window ‘‘overlooking the council
chamber’’ was added so that the sultan could listen to the deliberations
of his ministers.30 Many who managed the empire as governors, provin-
cial administrators, and army commanders received their education and
training in the palace. They had been recruited as young slaves and
brought to the palace where they were trained as the loyal and obedient
servants of the sultan. The sultan and his officials did not recruit the
slaves from the native Muslim population. Rather, young Christian boys
from the sultan’s European provinces provided him with a vast pool
from which new slaves could be recruited, converted to Islam, and
trained to assume the highest posts in the empire. Known as the
devşirme, this system also resulted in the creation of the yeni çeri or
janissary corps, who constituted the sultan’s elite infantry and were
paid directly from the central government’s treasury. For centuries
Historical Overview
before European states modernized their armies, the janissaries were
Europe’s sole standing army, trained and armed with the latest techni-
ques and instruments of warfare, scoring impressive victories.
Even when the territorial expansion of the empire slowed down,
the idea of recruiting young Christian boys as soldiers and administra-
tors did not stop. As late as the sixteenth century, the sultan issued a
ferm^ an or a royal decree, ordering his local officials to summon all
Christian boys between the ages of eight and twenty in their rural dis-
tricts.31 The government officials selected and registered the best
qualified boys and sent them in groups of a hundred to a hundred and
fifty to Istanbul where they were received by the a ga (commander) of
the janissary corps.32 The number of boys recruited through this sys-
tem in the sixteenth century has been estimated to be from a thousand
to three thousand a year.33 As the future members of the ruling elite,
they had to learn Turkish and acquire the customs and etiquette of an
Ottoman official. The best and most talented were retained as pages
(iç o
ans) in the palace where they received further education and
training in various palaces in Istanbul and Edirne under the strict
supervision of eunuchs and tutors.34 Once they had completed their
education, the pages were either appointed to positions within the pal-
ace or served as the kapi kull^ ari (the slaves of the sultan/the Porte)
military units. Those who served as pages in the palace were trained by
the eunuchs who organized their daily activities and responsibilities.
The young boys grew up with little contact with the outside world. As
young men who owed their life, status, and special privileges to the
sultan, they remained single until they had reached the age of thirty.35
The system demanded that they devote their loyalty and services to the
sultan and not to a wife and children who could demand their time
and energy.
Four principal chambers within the palace served the sultan and
his needs.36 The privy chamber served the sultan’s most basic needs,
such as cleaning, clothing, and personal security. The sultan’s sword
keeper (sil^ ahdar aga), the royal valet (çoh^
ar a
ga), and his personal
secretary (sir k^atibi) were the principal officials in charge of the privy
chamber.37 The treasury chamber was responsible for the sultan’s per-
sonal jewelry and other valuable items. The third chamber, or the lar-
der, was for the preparation of the sultan’s meals, and the fourth, or the
campaign chamber, comprised bath house attendants, barbers, drum
beaters, and entertainers.38 Pages with exceptional ability and talent
would join the privy chamber after they had served in one of the other
three chambers.39 From the time the sultan woke up to the time he
went to bed, the pages of the privy chamber accompanied him and
organized the many services that their royal master required.
Until the reign of Mehmed II in the middle of the fifteenth cen-
tury, the Ottomans, like many previous Muslim dynasties, recruited
and trained slaves as soldiers. The majority of non-military functions
were reserved for government officials who were recruited from the
Muslim Turkish elite. The members of this elite class were for the most
part educated in traditional bureaucratic and religious institutions
where the knowledge of Islamic sciences as well as Arabic grammar
and Persian literature and poetry was mandatory. Many who served as
the civil administrators within the Ottoman government were
recruited from the ranks of the ulema or the learned men of religion
and doctors of Islamic law. With the reign of Mehmed II, however, the
sultan began to appoint slaves to the top administrative positions of
the empire.40 The policy of replacing the traditional Muslim educated
elite with slaves ignited a conflict between the old Turkish elite and the
newly converted slaves, forcing the sultan to perform a balancing act
in order to avoid an all-out war among his officials.
As with the central administration, the provincial administration
also played an important role in preserving the unity and territorial in-
tegrity of the empire. To maintain an efficient provincial administra-
tion and a strong and highly trained army, the Ottomans had to create
a financial organization that would collect taxes and generate revenue.
Under Ottoman rule, land constituted the most important source of
wealth and government revenue. As in other Islamic states, there were
several distinct categories of land ownership. By far the largest cate-
gory was miri (crown land), or land owned and controlled by the
state.41 Theoretically, all lands used for agricultural production in the
empire belonged to the sultan. The central government also recognized
vakif (Arabic: vaqf), or land controlled and supervised as a religious
endowment, with its revenue providing support for charitable objec-
tives.42 The state also recognized m€ ulk, or privately owned land.43 The
vakif and m€ ulk could be transferred to crown lands by the order of the
sultan. Ottoman sultans were always desperate to increase their reve-
nue base by confiscating vakif and m€ ulk lands, converting them to miri
so their revenue could finance their military campaigns. An increase in
crown lands also allowed the sultan to increase the number of cavalry-
men recruited for the army. Under the Ottoman land tenure system,
the peasant enjoyed the hereditary right to cultivate the land but could
not sell it or transfer the title without permission from the central gov-
ernment.44 The hereditary right to cultivate the land passed from
father to son.45
The Ottoman Empire frequently suffered from a scarcity of silver
coinage, which posed a fundamental challenge to the central govern-
ment.46 How could the government collect taxes from peasant farmers
Historical Overview
who could not pay their taxes in cash? And how could the sultan pay
his officials and troops their salaries? In response to these challenges,
the empire was divided into numerous fiefs or timars (literally meaning
labor). To each timar, the sultan assigned a sip^ahi or a cavalryman. The
ahi did not exercise the right of ownership over the timar he held,
but was responsible for collecting taxes and maintaining security in
the area under his control, making sure that the cultivation of land
would not be disrupted.47 He provided troops to the army during the
time of campaigns, thereby contributing to the central government’s
cavalry force. Unlike the janissary, who used firearms, however, the
ahi and the men he recruited and organized were armed with medie-
val weaponry.48 Thus, the cavalryman was simultaneously the tax col-
lector, the local policeman, and the army recruiter. The revenue
generated by his timar paid for his military services. At the time of the
conquest of each new territory, the Ottoman government sent agents to
the newly acquired districts to identify and quantify taxable sources,
such as crops, and assess the amount of tax that particular community
was to pay. These calculations were then entered into government
registries. Every twenty to thirty years these tax assessments were
revisited and, if necessary, revised. Instead of paying the salaries of
military personnel from the sultan’s treasury, the troops were thus
allowed to directly collect the revenue from agricultural production in
lieu of their salary. The sip^ahi, who lived in a village among peasant
farmers, collected the taxes in kind, and it was his duty to convert it to
cash.49 Through the sip^ ahis, the central government penetrated the ru-
ral communities of the empire and established direct control over the
process of agricultural production and collection of taxes from the
The timar holders were grouped together under sancaks or mili-
tary-administrative units, which were run by a military governor
(sancak bey).50 The military governor was called a sancak bey because
he had received a sancak or a standard/banner from the sultan as the
sign and symbol of power and authority.51 As the Ottoman state
expanded and the number of sancak beys increased, the central govern-
ment created a new position, the beylerbey or bey of the beys, responsi-
ble for the sancak beys in his province (ey^ alet).52 Each beylerbey ruled
from a provincial capital, which had its own janissary garrison, reli-
gious judge (k^ adi), and administrators in charge of assessing taxes.53
This system did not prevail in all provinces and territories controlled
by the sultan, however. In several Kurdish and Arab-populated regions,
tribal chiefs were appointed as hereditary sancak beys. They were re-
sponsible for collecting taxes (much of which they retained) and send-
ing troops to Istanbul at a time of war with foreign powers. There were
also vassal Christian states such as Moldavia and Wallachia, which
were ruled by their princes, and Muslim principalities such as Crimea,
which were administered by their khans. Aside from the beylerbeys and
the sancak beys, who acted as the direct representatives of their royal
master and were recruited from the military class, in all legal matters
the sultan was represented by a k^ adi (judge) who came from the ranks
of the ulema. The governors could not carry out justice without receiv-
ing a legal judgment from the k^ adi, but the k^
adi did not have the exec-
utive authority to carry out any of his religious rulings.54 Until the
second half of the sixteenth century, k^ adis were appointed for life, but
as the number of prospective judges increased, term limits were
imposed by the central government.55
The decline of the Ottoman Empire began in the last three deca-
des of the sixteenth century, but it did not happen overnight. What
were the principal causes for the decline of the Ottoman state? Did the
decline begin internally and at the top of the power pyramid, with the
sultan and the palace, or were there social and economic causes at
the base that played a significant role? How much of the decline was
caused by overextending the territory of the empire? And how far did
the wars with European powers and Iran contribute to the military and
financial exhaustion that eventually undermined the capability of the
central government to maintain effective control over its provinces?
The process of decline was already under way during the reign of
S€uleyman the Magnificent, but it did not manifest itself to outsiders,
particularly to the Christian states of Europe, until a century later. Sev-
eral factors contributed to the growing decline of the Ottoman state.
The rise of Ottoman power to world prominence was related directly
to a series of wise, capable, and courageous sultans who were actively
engaged in administering their empire. Characteristic of the long pe-
riod of decline was the growing detachment of successive Ottoman sul-
tans from active participation in decision-making. As the role of the
sultan in administering the empire diminished, the power of the grand
vezir and his cabinet increased and the influence of the ‘‘slaves’’
recruited through devşirme was enhanced. The early Ottoman sultans
had been trained to rule by serving their fathers as governors and
commanders. They had to participate in administering the affairs of
the state and often fought on battlefields against external foes. During
the long period of decline, the practice of training the princes was
abandoned.56 The death of S€ uleyman the Magnificent in 1566 was fol-
lowed by a series of weak and incompetent sultans who were domi-
nated by their mothers, wives, and chief eunuchs inside the harem and
by the janissary corps outside the palace. They were born and raised in
the seclusion of the royal harem, detached from the realities of ruling a
Historical Overview
vast and complex empire. Surrounded by slave girls, who were brought
to the harem from various parts of the empire, the sultans were con-
verted into sexual machines, sleeping with an unlimited number of
women and producing a large number of children who imposed a sig-
nificant financial burden on the state treasury. With the increase in the
number of wives and children, the Topkapi Palace was expanded to
accommodate the new members of the royal family. For the next cen-
tury, as Europe began the long process of modernization and industri-
alization, the Ottoman state, confident of its power and superiority, fell
into a deep sleep from which it awakened only after it was defeated in
battles against European armies in the last two decades of the seven-
teenth century.
Beginning with the reign of Selim II in 1566, the majority of Otto-
man monarchs began to disengage from participating in government,
delegating much of their executive power to their grand vezirs and the
cabinet of ministers. By marrying a daughter or a sister of the reigning
sultan, grand vezirs often converted themselves into members of the
royal family and increased their influence and power over their royal
master. Surrounded by slaves and servants, sex and pleasure, the Otto-
man sultans became increasingly isolated, ignorant, ineffective, and de-
pendent on their officials to rule the empire. Without direct contact
with reality, the sultans received reports on the state of affairs through
the mediation of the grand vezir and the slaves who surrounded them.
Royal mothers and wives also began to assume a greater role and more
power. Enjoying direct access to the sovereign, they could exercise
enormous influence on appointments to the highest governmental
posts. The growing power of the women and the competition among
them for influence in the harem perpetuated a culture of conspiracy
and intrigue, which reduced the sultans to hapless observers who
could be manipulated to serve the interests and agenda of an individual
or faction who had established a close alliance with their mother or
The period of decline was also characterized by the Ottomans
abandoning the practice of killing the brothers of a new sultan (fratri-
cide) to avoid internal strife and dynastic warfare.57 As an increasing
number of male offspring of the sultan survived, government expendi-
ture increased. Each prince of the royal family required his own reti-
nue of mother, wives, children, eunuchs, servants, and teachers, who
were supported by the central treasury. Aside from the financial burden
on the state treasury, the presence of male members of the royal family
generated harem intrigues and internal instability. Factions were cre-
ated around each prince with his mother leading the effort to ensure
the survival and ascendancy of her son to the Ottoman throne.
Contacts were established, bribes were paid, and promises of power
and promotion were made to key palace officials and army com-
manders to secure their support for a contender.
Aside from palace intrigue, the decline of the empire was caused
by a financial crisis triggered from afar. The so-called ‘‘age of discov-
ery’’ in the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, which provided Euro-
pean maritime powers such as Spain with access to enormous reserves
of silver from South America, flooded the European markets and gave
rise to massive inflation.58 The introduction of silver coinage improved
Europe’s purchasing power at the time when capitalism was replacing
feudalism as the dominant mode of economic production. The rise of
capitalism in Europe corresponded with a massive migration of cheap
labor from rural communities to the emerging urban centers. As Euro-
pean urban centers grew in size, the demand for raw materials and
foodstuff increased, forcing European merchants to tap into the Otto-
man market. Raw materials and food stuff from the Ottoman Empire
fed Europe’s urban centers and the emerging industries on the conti-
nent. The introduction of considerable silver coinage into the Ottoman
economy introduced massive inflation, forcing the Ottoman govern-
ment to debase the coinage, further draining basic agricultural goods
that were exported to European markets in return for cash. The
change, however, benefited the former timar holders turned land-
owners, who used their access to European markets as a means of
building a strong economic base, particularly in the regions adjacent
to Europe. The debasement of the Ottoman coinage undermined the fi-
nancial power and security of the ruling elite, who received a fixed sal-
ary from the state treasury. To compensate for their financial loss, the
government officials began to search for ways to turn their positions
into a means of generating financial gain.
The economic and financial decline of the empire was exacer-
bated by the significant diversion of trade from traditional land
routes to new sea routes. Historically, the vast region extending from
Central Asia to the Middle East served as a land bridge between
China and Europe.59 The taxes and the custom charges collected
by the Ottoman government constituted an important component of
the revenue generated by the state and contributed significantly to
the financial power and economic prosperity of the empire.60 The
Portuguese rounding of the Cape of Good Hope and subsequent
establishment of a direct sea route to Iran, India, and beyond,
however, allowed European states and merchants to bypass Ottoman-
held territory and export European goods and import various prod-
ucts from Asia without paying taxes and custom dues to Ottoman
authorities.61 The sea routes were faster and cheaper. They also
Historical Overview
undermined the Ottoman Empire’s central role in world commerce
and trade. Taking their cue from the Christian states of Europe, the
Iranians did everything in their power to avoid exporting their pre-
cious goods, such as silk, to Europe via Ottoman transit routes.62 By
building a navy and removing the Portuguese from the area, the Safa-
vid monarchs of Iran inaugurated a policy of exporting their silk
through the newly built ports of the Persian Gulf and refused to pro-
vide the Ottomans with any share from this lucrative trade.63
Another important factor in the long period of decline was the
demographic explosion. By all indications, between 1500 and 1700,
the population of the empire grew at a rapid rate, which corresponded
with the end of territorial expansion. After the death of S€uleyman the
Magnificent, Ottoman conquests came to a gradual halt. Although
Ottoman armies attacked and occupied the island of Cyprus during
the reign of Selim II in 1570, the empire did not gain significant terri-
tory in eastern Europe. Historically, Ottoman territorial expansion had
allowed a large number of Turkish tribesmen from Anatolia to cross
the water and settle on the European continent, colonizing Christian
European countries in the name of spreading the domain of Islam. This
colonization provided Turkish nomads with access to pasture lands for
their animals and Turkish peasants with arable land for agriculture.
With the end of territorial expansion in Europe, however, access to
new territory ceased, and with the rapid growth in population, the
empire began to experience the new phenomenon of landlessness and
unemployment. It is thus not surprising that the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries witnessed the spread of mass rebellions and uprisings
against the central government that quickly attracted wide popular
While the Ottoman Empire declined from within, the European
states that had been defeated and humiliated by the Ottomans for
several centuries began their rise to power and prosperity. The rise
of absolutist states in central and western Europe capable of main-
taining well-trained and well-equipped professional armies on the
battlefield was a major development. These armies no longer com-
prised peasant farmers, who had been forced to join a battle and
were anxious to return home for the harvest. Europe now had the
equivalent of what the Ottomans had enjoyed for centuries through
the janissary corps, namely, a permanent killing machine that owed
its existence and financial survival to the will of a monarch. Trium-
phant in most battles they had fought against Christian Europe, the
Ottomans showed little interest in studying and observing the funda-
mental political, technological, social, and economic transformations
that Europe was undergoing.

1. Peter F. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule: 1354–1804
(Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 33.
2. Ibid. Virginia H. Aksan, An Ottoman Statesman in War and Peace:
Ahmed Resmi Efendi, 1700–1783 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995), x–xi.
3. Ibid. Aksan, An Ottoman Statesman, x–xi.
4. Ibid., 33–4. Aksan, An Ottoman Statesman, x–xi.
5. Colin Imber, The Ottoman Empire (New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
2002), 216. See Benjamin Braude and Bernard Lewis, eds. Christians and Jews
in the Ottoman Empire, 2 vols. (New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers,1982).
6. Ibid., 216–17.
7. Ibid., 217.
8. Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory History to 1923
(London: Addison Wesley Longman Limited, 1997), 130.
9. Ibid., 128.
10. Ibid., 121–22. Halil Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age
1300-1600, trans. Norman Itzkowitz and Colin Imber (New York: Praeger
Publishers, 1973), 169–72.
11. Halil Inalcik, ‘‘The Rise of the Ottoman Empire’’ in A History of
the Ottoman Empire to 1730, ed. M.A. Cook (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press, 1976), 17.
12. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 55. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Otto-
man Rule, 8.
13. Ibid., 55, 226.
14. Ibid., 56.
15. Ibid., 55–6.
16. Ibid., 59. See, A.D. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty
(Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1982), 4–16.
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid., 60.
21. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty, 5.
22. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 56.
23. Aksan, An Ottoman Statesman, xi.
24. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 65.
25. See Sabahattin T€ urkoglu, The Topkapi Palace (Istanbul: 1989). Sugar,
Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 34–5.
26. Ibid.
27. Stanford J. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey,
2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 1:115.
28. Ibid.
Historical Overview
29. Andre Clot, Suleiman the Magnificent (London: Saqi Books, 2005),
344. Selcuk Aksin Somel, Historical Dictionary of the Ottoman Empire
(Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2003), 72–3, 145, 215–16, 311.
30. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 90.
31. Ibid., 78.
32. Ibid.
33. Ibid.
34. Ibid., 78–9.
35. Ibid., 79.
36. Ibid., 80.
37. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:115.
38. Ibid., 1:117. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 80.
39. Ibid. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 80.
40. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 55.
41. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 109.
42. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 116–18.
43. Ibid., 118–19.
44. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 109.
45. Ibid.
46. Ibid., 107.
47. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:26.
48. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 108.
49. Ibid., 107.
50. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:26. Gustav Bayerle, Pashas,
Begs and Effendis: A Historical Dictionary of Titles and Terms in the Ottoman
Empire (Istanbul: Isis Press, 1997), 140.
51. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 104.
52. Ibid., 104–6. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:26.
53. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 121.
54. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 104.
55. Bayerle, Pashas, Begs and Effendis, 97.
56. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:170.
57. Ibid.
58. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 152.
59. Ibid., 151.
60. Ibid.
61. Ibid.
62. Sir Percy Sykes, A History of Persia, 2 vols. (London: Mcmillan
and Co., 1951), 2:189.
63. Ibid., 2:191–7.
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The origins of the Ottoman state are shrouded in mystery. The story of
its rise begins with the migration of Turkic-speaking nomadic groups
from the harsh environment of Central Asia and Outer Mongolia to
Transoxiana, the Iranian plateau, and Asia Minor. Scarcity, limited pas-
ture, and pressure from neighboring tribes and governments forced the
nomads to move in order to seek new pasturage and trade opportuni-
ties. Starting in the tenth century, various Turkic tribes made numerous
attempts to cross the Oxus (Amu Darya) and enter northeastern Iran.
A major incursion of Turkic nomadic groups into the Iranian plateau
took place when a confederation of Oghuz/Ghuzz Turkic tribes and
their allies, under the leadership of the Seljuks/Seljuqs, entered Trans-
oxiana in the tenth century, seeking land and pasturage for their ani-
mals.1 After several clashes with the ruling Ghaznavid dynasty, the
Seljuks inflicted a humiliating defeat on a large Ghaznavid force at the
fortress of Dandanqan between Sarakhs (in northeastern Iran) and
Marv (in present-day Turkmenistan) in May 1040.2 The defeat of the
Ghaznavid army made the Seljuks the masters of northeastern Iran
with the Seljuk chief, Tugril, ascending the throne and proclaiming
himself the ruler (Amir/Emir) of Khorasan.3 Tugril then moved the
main Seljuk army to northern Iran, capturing Ray (south of present-
day Tehran) and proclaiming it his capital.4 In 1055, he entered Bagh-
dad with pomp and ceremony.5 The Abbasid caliph bestowed upon the
Seljuk ruler the title of sultan, while Tugril accepted the supremacy of
the caliph as Islam’s supreme religious commander and committed the
Seljuk state to the defense, protection, and expansion of Sunni Islam
against internal and external threats.6
The death of Tugril in 1063 triggered an eruption of dynastic wars
between the contenders to the Seljuk throne. In 1064, after defeating
his rivals, Tugril’s twenty-two-year-old nephew, Alp Arsalan (1064–
1072) emerged as the new sultan. He completed his uncle’s conquest
of Iran and then moved his army northward toward Azerbaijan and
Armenia to consolidate Seljuk rule in the southern Caucasus. As the
Seljuk army moved west and crossed into the Greek Byzantine terri-
tory, a military confrontation became unavoidable. The decisive battle
was fought on August 12, 1071 in Manzikert (Malazgird) north of Lake
Van, where the Seljuk army, led by Alp Arsalan, routed a much larger
Byzantine force led by Emperor Romanus Diogenes (Romanus IV) who
was captured by Seljuk forces. For the first time in history, a Byzantine
emperor was presented to a Muslim ruler as a prisoner of war. The Sel-
juk sultan treated his prisoner with courtesy and released him after a
week in return for a ransom.7 The defeat proved to be a devastating
blow to the political and military might of the Byzantine state, from
which it would never fully recover.
In Constantinople, the news of the defeat threw the panic-
stricken Byzantine court into disarray, and internal quarrels ensued.
Neither the humiliated Byzantine army nor the demoralized Byzantine
bureaucracy mustered the discipline or the organization to prevent the
flood of Turcoman nomads from entering Anatolia, plundering urban
and rural communities, and seizing pasture land for their flocks. Such
was the level of anxiety gripping Constantinople that the Byzantine
court appealed to its principal religious rival, the Pope, for urgent as-
sistance to counter the Turkish onslaught. The invasion of Anatolia by
the Seljuks, the collapse of Byzantine defenses, and the subsequent fall
of Jerusalem to the Turks provided sufficient justification for Pope
Urban II to call on Christian Europe in 1096 to join a crusade to liber-
ate the Christian holy lands from the Muslim Turkish occupiers.
The Christian crusades against the Turks could not, however,
save the Byzantine state, which shrank in territory, power, and influ-
ence until it collapsed four centuries later in May 1453. The defeat of
the Byzantine army at Manzikert opened the gates of Anatolia to Turkic
nomads who settled in Asia Minor and in the process transformed the
ethnic, linguistic, and religious composition of the region. In the areas
where the population was non-Greek, the natives adjusted to the new
political reality by collaborating with the Seljuk Turks. In eastern Ana-
tolia, the Armenian population survived by entering into an alliance
with the newly arriving Turkish conquerors. The same was true in
southeastern Anatolia, where Kurdish tribal chiefs joined the Seljuk
army and played an important role in its military campaigns. The
brunt of colonization must have been felt by the Greek population,
particularly in central and western Anatolia, where the majority of
Turks settled. An increasing number of Greek city dwellers and peasant
farmers, who had lost their political, cultural, and religious ties to the
Byzantine state, converted to Islam. Their conversion served as the first
major step toward acculturation and co-option into the ever growing
Muslim and Turkish-speaking population of Anatolia.8
Founders of the Empire
In 1075, Alp Arsalan’s successor, Malik Shah (1072–1092), sent a
member of the Seljuk dynasty, S€ uleyman, to establish the Seljuk state
in Anatolia, which would soon proclaim its independence from the Sel-
juk Empire of Iran.9 After decades of fighting with the Byzantine state,
the European crusades, and various Turkish chieftains, this branch of
the Seljuk dynasty established itself in Anatolia, ruling a vast region
from its capital, the city of Konya. Muslim writers referred to this
branch of the Seljuk dynasty as the Seljuks of Rum (Salajeqa-yi Rum or
Seljuks of Byzantine lands). In the two hundred years that lie between
the Seljuk victory in Manzikert and the rise of the Ottoman state in
western Anatolia, the Seljuks of Rum served as the instrument for the
Turkification and Islamization of Anatolia.
The Islamization and Turkification of Anatolia intensified when
the Mongols, under the command of their leader Chengiz Khan,
invaded Central Asia and the Middle East in 1220. The armies of Khar-
azm Shah, who ruled Central Asia and Khorasan, were defeated. The
Mongols devastated urban and rural life in a vast region extending
from Samarqand (Afrasiyab) in the east to Nishapur and Ray in the
west.10 In almost every city, the civilian population was systematically
exterminated, and those who survived ‘‘were led away into slavery and
captivity, or died of epidemics or hunger.’’11 Many were forced to eat
‘‘human flesh, dogs, and cats for a whole year, because the warriors of
Chengiz Khan had burned down all the granaries.’’12 One native histo-
rian and geographer observed that ‘‘even if for a thousand years to
come no evil befalls the country, it would not be possible to repair the
damage, and bring back the land to the state in which it was’’ before
the destruction and massacres carried out by Mongols.13
As the Mongol armies swept through Central Asia and Khorasan,
tens of thousands of refugees began to flee their homes for Anatolia.
Mystics, poets, scholars, merchants, artisans, and nomads fled west-
ward as the Mongols devastated urban and rural life in Central Asia
and Iran. By defeating the Kharazm Shah, the Mongols made them-
selves the eastern neighbor of Rum Seljuks, raiding Anatolia as far west
as Sivas.14 In 1243, a Mongol army invaded Anatolia and defeated the
Seljuk ruler, Qiyassudin Kay Khosrow II (1237–1246), in the battle of
K€ osedag near Sivas. This victory established the Mongols as the over-
lords of Anatolia and forced the Seljuks of Rum to accept Mongol
suzerainty and pay tribute to the Mongol Khans of Iran who had estab-
lished the Il Khanid dynasty.
The complete collapse of the Seljuk dynasty in 1308 was followed
by the growing weakness and disintegration of the Il Khanid state in
Iran. As the Seljuk state disappeared and Mongol power waned, the
small Turcoman Principalities in Anatolia began to assume more
authority and independence. By 1335, when the reign of the Il Khanid
dynasty came to an end, the Turcoman Principalities in Anatolia had
emerged as independent states. They were still too small to be called
kingdoms, but they were free to expand their territories westward at
the expense of the Byzantine state. One of these Turcoman Principal-
ities in western Anatolia was the small fiefdom established by a Turkish
frontier commander (bey) named Osman.
The ancestors of Osman, the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, had
arrived as nomadic Oghuz Turkish horsemen from Central Asia. A
myth was constructed later, tracing the origins of the family to a cer-
tain S€uleyman, leader of the Kayi (Qayi) tribe, who lived in northeast-
ern Iran but had been forced to flee his home at the time of the Mongol
invasion.15 S€ uleyman is said to have drowned as he crossed the river
Euphrates, but one of his sons, Ertugril, moved his tribe into Anatolia,
where he entered the service of the Seljuks of Rum, who rewarded him
with a small fiefdom around the district of S€ ogu
€t. His son, Osman,
emerged as the actual founder of the Ottoman state.
With the Mongol invasion of Asia Minor and the defeat of the
Seljuk army, more refugees, including merchants, manufacturers,
scholars, and sufi leaders sought refuge in the western regions of Ana-
tolia, bringing with them their knowledge and talents. As the Seljuk
state of Rum lost its legitimacy and began to disintegrate, the military
commanders of marches established small principalities that attracted
a diverse population. These g^ azis waged religious war against infidels,
expanding the domain of Islam. As long as the Seljuk state remained
the dominant political and military power in Anatolia, they paid a trib-
ute to the sultan who ruled from Konya. With the defeat of the Seljuks
at the hands of the Mongols, they preserved the relative autonomy of
their principalities by recognizing the Mongol Il Khan as their new
master and sending him the customary tribute. As long as the Mongols
left them alone, they could continue with their push westward at the
expense of the beleaguered Byzantine state.
The rise and expansion of the Ottoman state was greatly aided by
the weakness and internal fragmentation of European states—particu-
larly in southeast Europe—and by the dynamism and charismatic lead-
ership of wise and competent sultans who expanded their territory
into the heart of the Balkans by forming alliances and manipulating
the internal conflicts and jealousies among various Christian states in
the region.16 The political flexibility of the early Ottoman rulers was
best demonstrated in their approach to conquest, which was based on
coopting and controlling rather than uprooting and destroying the
newly conquered lands and their inhabitants. In many instances, the
Ottomans allowed the reigning Christian monarchs of southeast
Founders of the Empire
Europe to retain their power as vassals of the sultan while paying trib-
ute and providing the Ottoman armies with military and logistical sup-
port.17 In the process, the early Ottomans demonstrated a remarkable
tolerance toward the existing cultures and religious traditions, allow-
ing the Christian orthodox churches of southeast Europe to survive as
long as taxes were paid to the Ottoman central authority and the rule
of the sultan was not challenged.
It is generally believed that the founder of the Ottoman state,
Osman (1290–1326), was a g^ azi or a frontier commander (bey) who
first established himself in the district of S€ €t around 1290.18 Waging
gaz^a/ghaza or holy war against infidels allowed him to establish a repu-
tation for himself as a devout and dedicated Muslim ruler who sought
to expand the domain of Islam (Dar ul-Islam) at the expense of the
Byzantine Empire and other Christian rulers of Europe who belonged
to the domain of war (Dar ul-Harb). While this claim may have pro-
vided a convenient ideological legitimization for Ottoman westward
expansion, it is very clear that a religious war against the infidels was
not sufficient to rally fighters around the Ottoman banner.19 The war
against infidels could only succeed if it provided material incentives
and promised profitable gains for those who participated. Some may
have justified their actions under the banner of religious holy war, but
in reality the promise of material gain and upward social mobility
motivated them.20 Thus, the g^ azis not only waged gaz^ a but also
launched raids (akin) against non-Muslims, allowing the akincis to
plunder rural and urban communities and amass booty and slaves.21
They also acted as the front line shock troops plundering enemy terri-
tory, spreading fear in the hearts and minds of the population who
were about to be invaded and conquered.
The principal objective of Osman was to avoid moving against
neighboring Turcoman Principalities to the south and east and focus
on expanding west and northwest against the Byzantine state and the
Christian states of southeastern Europe.22 The Ottomans were well
aware that such a policy could be easily justified under the banner of
holy war against nonbelievers. They also knew that the politically frag-
mented and internally divided southeast Europe was a far easier target
than the neighboring Muslim states. In their expansion into the Bal-
kans, the Ottomans tried to maintain the status quo by forming alli-
ances with the leaders and elites who enjoyed legitimacy among the
native population. As long as the ruling dynast and his government
cooperated with the sultan and did not challenge his suzerainty, the
Ottomans did not remove him.
Osman expanded his territory from the region of Eskişehir
northward, encountering local feudal lords who functioned as
representatives of the Byzantine state. Some of these local notables
were defeated on the battlefield, while others were co-opted through
marriages and alliances.23 Soon, he attacked and occupied the impor-
tant town of Yenişehir, which was proclaimed the Ottoman capital.24
On July 27, 1301, Osman defeated a Byzantine army outside Nicome-
dia (Izmit). The victory brought recognition and prestige for Osman
G^azi and allowed the beys fighting under his command to push toward
the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean. Determined to capture vulnerable
Byzantine towns, which were not receiving adequate support from
Constantinople, Osman cut the communication lines between Nicaea
(Iznik) and Nicomedia (Izmit). Before his death in 1326, Osman had
extended his territory all the way to the port of Mudanya and had cut
the communication line between Constantinople and the important
Byzantine city of Bursa.25
Throughout his reign, Osman focused much of his attention on
capturing Bursa, an achievement that could significantly enhance
his prestige and power. His dream became a reality when, after a
seven-year siege, Bursa surrendered in 1326 to his son Orhan, who
proclaimed it not only his new capital but also a model of Ottoman
generosity, patronage, and support for urban growth and develop-
ment.26 The North African traveler and chronicler, Ibn Battuta, who
visited Bursa during the reign of Orhan, described the town as ‘‘a great
and important city with fine bazaars and wide streets, surrounded on
all sides by gardens and running springs.’’27 He also presented Orhan
as ‘‘the greatest of the kings of the Turkmens and the richest in wealth,
lands, and military forces,’’ who possesses nearly a hundred fortresses,
and ‘‘for most of his time he is continually engaged in making the
round of them, staying in each fortress for some days to put it into
good order and examine its conditions.’’28 Referring to his role as a
g^azi, Ibn Battuta wrote that Orhan ‘‘fights with the infidels continually
and keeps them under siege.’’29
With Bursa as their center of political power and military opera-
tions, the Ottoman conquests picked up pace, defeating a Byzantine
army of four thousand men under the leadership of the Emperor
Andronicus III at the Battle of Pelekanon (Pelecanum) near Eskişehir
in 1329, ‘‘the first personal encounter between a Byzantine emperor
and an Ottoman Emir.’’30 Orhan then captured Nicaea (Iznik) in 1331,
thus incorporating the entire northwest Anatolia into Ottoman lands.31
But the Ottomans were not the only power to pose a serious threat to
the security and very survival of the Byzantine state. To the west, an
alliance between the Serbs and the Bulgarians was concluded in 1332
after the Serbian ruler Stephan Dusan married the sister of the Bulgar-
ian monarch. The Serbian and the Bulgarian monarchs shared the
Founders of the Empire
objective of destroying the Byzantine state and replacing it with a Slav
empire ruled from Constantinople. By the summer of 1333, the grow-
ing threat from Serbia and Bulgaria and the increasing pressure from
the Ottomans had forced Andronicus to secretly negotiate a promise of
tribute in return for Orhan’s stopping the attacks on Byzantine posses-
sions in Asia.32 Four years later, in 1337, however, the important city
of Nicomedia (Izmit) surrendered after the Ottomans allowed the
native population who wished to leave for Constantinople to abandon
the city before they entered it. With the fall of Nicomedia, the Otto-
mans established their rule on the southern shore of the Black Sea,
making the Ottoman beylik the most important and influential neigh-
bor of the Byzantine state.
This newly acquired power and confidence was demonstrated in
Orhan’s decision to mint silver coins proclaiming himself sultan. His
eldest son S€ uleyman used the newly acquired Ottoman territories to
raid the southern shores of the Sea of Marmara and the important stra-
tegic region of Gallipoli. By 1354, the Ottomans had occupied Gallip-
oli, establishing a foothold on the European continent for the first
time.33 Using Gallipoli as the base for their military operations, they
intensified their attacks against southern Thrace, which they had
raided since 1352. Thrace would hereafter emerge as the territorial base
for Ottoman raids and the eventual conquest of southeast Europe.34
Their newly gained territory and influence allowed the Ottomans
to intervene in fractious Byzantine power politics, dominated by the
Cantacuzenus and Palaeologus families, and making an alliance with
the former that was strengthened in 1346 when the Byzantine leader
offered the second of his three daughters, Theodora, to Orhan as the
sultan’s new bride.35 The following year, when Cantacuzenus returned
to Constantinople and was proclaimed joint emperor with John V
Palaeologus, Ottoman influence within the Byzantine court grew sig-
nificantly. In 1347, the city was struck by the Black Death. The epi-
demic killed a large segment of the population, disrupting life and
commerce in the Balkans and depopulating towns and villages.36 The
Black Death, the aggressive and expansionist policy of Ottoman Turks
from the east, the emergence of Serbian power under Stephan Dusan
to the west, and the continuing rivalry between Venice and Genoa over
controlling the shipping routes that connected the Black Sea to the Ae-
gean and the Mediterranean, put the very existence of the Byzantine
state in extreme jeopardy. The ultimate cause for the rapid decline of
the Byzantine state, however, was financial. The empire, which in its
heyday ruled a vast territory from the eastern shores of the Italian pen-
insula to the western borders of Iran, was now reduced to a few iso-
lated enclaves in Anatolia, a number of islands in the Aegean, and the
cities of Adrianople and Thessaloniki (Salonica/Salonika) in Thrace.37
With the sharp decrease in state revenue, it was impossible to reorgan-
ize the Byzantine army. What the state collected in revenue was spent
on bribing foreign enemies or hiring mercenary armies to fight on
behalf of the beleaguered ruling elite.38
In his desperate attempt to revive the state and confront the
threat posed by Stephan Dusan, Cantacuzenus turned to Orhan for
military support. The anti-Serbian alliance allowed the sultan’s eldest
son, S€ uleyman, to confront and neutralize the Serbian army as it
advanced against Thrace in 1352, bringing Ottoman troops to the Eu-
ropean side of the Straits, who were soon followed by Turkish settlers.
Thus, in confronting the Serbian threat, Cantacuzenus had unwittingly
enhanced the power and influence of the Ottoman state, providing it
with a bridgehead to Europe. Cantacuzenus tried unsuccessfully to
bribe the Ottomans to abandon their new territory but S€ uleyman was
determined to hold on. He expanded his possessions after an earth-
quake destroyed hundreds of towns and villages on the Gallipoli Pen-
insula in March 1354, thus allowing Ottoman forces to occupy the
ruins and to transport new settlers to rebuild and repair the homes and
farms evacuated by their Greek inhabitants. In response to the Byzan-
tine demand for restitution, S€ uleyman replied that the devastated
villages and towns had fallen into his hands not by conquest but by the
will of God, and that returning them ‘‘would be an act of impious
The establishment of Turkish settlements on the European conti-
nent and the growing Ottoman influence in the Byzantine court cre-
ated a movement against Cantacuzenus, who was forced to abandon
the throne. With Cantacuzenus out of power, the Emperor John V
Palaeologus appealed to Pope Innocent VI for assistance, hoping that a
new crusader army from Catholic Europe would rescue him from the
tightening Turkish noose. But a new crusade was unlikely. France and
England were absorbed with the Hundred Years War, which had
started in 1337. The Church in Rome was torn by internal conflicts,
while the Venetians and Genovese were engaged in ‘‘mutually destruc-
tive’’ warfare.40 In the east, the small and feeble feudal states of the Bal-
kans were divided by old rivalries and lacked the political and military
organization to mount a formidable defense against the Ottomans.41
But if Christian Europe could not mobilize a strong crusade,
events of a different kind helped the beleaguered Byzantine elite to
recover momentarily from its panic-stricken state. In the summer of
1357, Orhan received the news of the death of his eldest son and desig-
nated successor, S€ uleyman.42 At almost the same time, Orhan’s twelve-
year-old son Halil was captured by pirates in the Gulf of Iznik.43 In his
Founders of the Empire
attempt to win Halil’s freedom Orhan was forced to appeal to the Byz-
antine emperor for assistance. The Byzantine ruler agreed, but
demanded that the Ottomans halt their territorial advances against the
Byzantine state and stop their interference in the empire’s internal
affairs, including the withdrawal of their support to the new pretender
to the Byzantine throne, Cantacuzenus’s son Matheos. Furthermore,
the Ottomans would forgive the emperor’s remaining debt and assume
the cost of rescuing Halil. Orhan agreed to the terms, and for the next
two years Ottoman troops did not launch any attacks on Byzantine ter-
ritory. True to his word, the Byzantine emperor dispatched a rescue
mission to free Halil, who was brought to Constantinople in 1359.
With Halil in the Byzantine capital, the emperor arranged for a
marriage between his daughter Irene and the young Ottoman prince,
requesting Orhan to designate Halil as crown prince and the next
But the agreement reached between the Byzantines and Ottomans
did not stop Constantinople from pursuing its double-pronged strat-
egy. The Byzantine emperor was painfully aware that peace with Orhan
would be short-lived and that the Ottomans would revive their expan-
sionist policy in southeast Europe as soon as they had secured the
release of Halil. During the next several years, Emperor John V trav-
eled to several European courts in order to organize an anti-Ottoman
alliance. His efforts, however, were in vain. In addition to the English–
French rivalry, the major European naval power, Venice, was engaged
in its own conflict with a major European land power, Hungary, over
the control of Dalmatia. And the Ottomans were not idle. With Halil’s
freedom, the Ottomans resumed their expansionist policy toward the
Byzantine state, besieging Constantinople by land from Asia and
Europe. Shortly after the death of S€uleyman, Orhan had designated his
second son Murad as the commander of all Ottoman forces in the
west.45 When his brother Halil was rescued in 1359, Murad reassumed
the leadership of holy war in southeast Europe, focusing his military
campaign on consolidating Ottoman territorial gains in Thrace and
capturing the important Byzantine city of Adrianople (Edirne). Under
the direct command of Prince Murad, the Ottoman forces stormed the
city in 1361 and immediately proclaimed it the new capital of the Otto-
man state. The fall of Edirne allowed the Ottoman forces to push into
southern Bulgaria and Macedonia and confront the threat posed by the
Serbian state, which had declined significantly since the death of its
leader, Stephan Dusan, in 1355. With the accession of Murad to the
throne in 1362, the new capital began to serve as the residence of the
Ottoman sultan. In tightening the noose around Constantinople and
consolidating the newly conquered Ottoman possessions in Thrace,
Murad began to organize a campaign into the heart of the Balkans.
Before moving against southeast Europe, however, he was forced to
deal with a threat posed by the powerful Turkish principality of Kara-
man in Anatolia. Murad’s quick and impressive victory against Kara-
man allowed the Ottomans to expand their territory eastward and
served as a warning to other Turcoman Principalities not to take
advantage of the Ottoman preoccupation with Europe. Once the threat
from Karaman was neutralized, Murad returned to Edirne to prepare
his army for the conquest of the entire Balkan Peninsula.
The expansion of Ottoman rule into southern Bulgaria and Mace-
donia alarmed Serbia, which had dreamt of carving a Serbo-Greek
empire. In their first major military campaign against Serbia, the Otto-
mans defeated a Serbian army at Chermanon (Chernomen) on the
bank of the river Maritsa on September 26, 1371, bringing Bulgaria,
Macedonia, and southern Serbia under their control. Sofia was then
occupied in 1385, followed by Niş (Nish) in 1386, and Thessaloniki
(Salonica) in 1387.46 Despite these setbacks, the Serbs continued their
efforts to establish a united Christian front against the Ottoman state.
Initially, their effort was viewed by other rulers in the region as an
attempt to impose Serbian hegemony. However, the successful Otto-
man military campaign against northern Greece and the conquest of
Bulgaria convinced the Christian states of southeast Europe that the
time had arrived for a concerted effort to block further Ottoman
expansion.47 Prince Lazar of Serbia, King Tvrto of Bosnia, and John
Stratsimir of Vidin agreed to join a Christian alliance, which defeated
an Ottoman army in August 1388 at Plo^cnik (Ploshnik) west of Niş.48
Recognizing the threat posed by the alliance, Murad rushed back
from Anatolia where he had defeated the Turcoman Principalities of
Germiyan, Hamid, and Karaman, forcing them to accept Ottoman
suzerainty.49 The sultan then moved his forces to southern Serbia. The
decisive battle took place on June 15, 1389 at the Kosovo Polje (Field
of the Blackbirds) near Pristina. Although Murad was killed during the
battle, the Ottomans managed to pull a victory out of the jaws of
defeat. Prince Lazar was killed at the end of the battle, and the devas-
tating defeat forced Serbia to accept Ottoman suzerainty. Many centu-
ries later, the memory of the battle of Kosovo Polje was celebrated by
Serbian nationalists as the last desperate, heroic attempt to save the in-
dependence of Serbia and the rest of Orthodox Christian Europe.
Murad was succeeded by his son Bayezid I (1389–1402), known
by his title Yildrim (Thunderbolt), who replaced his father on the bat-
tlefield of Kosovo Polje and proved himself to be a dynamic and charis-
matic leader, expanding and consolidating newly gained Ottoman
domains in the Balkans and Anatolia. The new sultan also intended to
Founders of the Empire
conquer Constantinople, transform ‘‘the Lower Danube into a safe mar-
itime border,’’ and seize ‘‘Christian and Islamic strategic centers on the
western and southern littoral of the Black Sea.’’50 Shortly after ascend-
ing the throne, Bayezid attacked and conquered the Turcoman Princi-
palities of Menteşe, Aydin, Saruhan, Hamid, and Germiyan in Anatolia
in 1390. After Ottoman armies annexed northern Bulgaria in 1393, the
ruler of Wallachia, Mircea the Old, was forced to accept the suzerainty
of the Ottoman sultan in 1395. In 1396, Christian Europe finally mus-
tered sufficient will to organize an anti-Ottoman crusade. At the behest
of Pope Boniface IX (1389–1404), the ruler of Hungary, King Sigis-
mund (1387–1437), assumed the leadership of the crusade, which was
joined by Christian knights from ‘‘England, Scotland, Poland, Bohe-
mia, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland as well as from the lands of south-
eastern Europe more directly threatened by the Ottomans.’’51 The
crusading army crossed the Danube at Nicopolis in summer 1396, cap-
turing the towns of Orsova and Vidin and putting the Muslim popula-
tion to the sword. But Bayezid, who had rushed to the shores of the
Danube from Anatolia, routed the Christian army on September 25,
killing thousands.
While the g^ azi core of his forces was determined to push farther
into southeast Europe, Bayezid turned his attention from Europe to Ana-
tolia. The sultan viewed the expansion of Ottoman territories in Asia
Minor as the first stage of an invasion of the Arab Middle East and Egypt,
which were ruled by the Mamluks. By turning away from further expan-
sion in southeast Europe, Bayezid alienated many of his fighters, who
believed in the continuation of holy war against the Christian powers of
the Balkans. These soldiers, officers, and commanders, who were raised
in the g^
azi tradition, despised the idea of waging war against fellow Mus-
lims. Moreover, military campaigns in Anatolia did not produce ‘‘the
kind of booty and estates found in Europe.’’52 Finally, Bayezid’s reliance
on European vassals, who had preserved much of their independence,
undermined the cohesion and unity of the Ottoman army.
Greatly alarmed by Bayezid’s territorial ambitions, the Mamluks
of Egypt and the Turcoman Principalities in Anatolia, particularly the
Karaman who had lost significant territory to the sultan, began to
search for a powerful ally and protector who would be willing to coun-
ter the Ottoman power. They thought they found him in Timur the
Lame (Teymur-i Lang or Tamirlane). Since 1380, Timur had expanded
his territory from the heart of Central Asia into Afghanistan, India,
Iran, the Arab world, and the south Caucasus. As early as 1393/4, his
forces had approached Anatolia from the south after capturing Bagh-
dad, Takrit, Mosul, Kirkuk, Mardin, and Diyarbakir.53 After several
quick victories, however, Timur was distracted by the events in Iran,
Central Asia, and India and left the region. In 1399, Timur shifted his
attention westward yet again, attacking and occupying the southern
Caucasus. He also sent a letter to Bayezid, reminding him of his
recently acquired power and glory and warning the Ottoman sultan
against further military operations against the Turcoman Principalities
(beyliks) in Anatolia.54 The response from Bayezid to the insulting and
condescending message was a volcanic eruption of abuse and counter
threats.55 Meanwhile, Timur’s army entered eastern Anatolia through
Erzurum, capturing Sivas and Kayseri before arriving in Ankara in July
1402.56 The decisive battle was fought on July 28 with the Ottoman
army routed and Bayezid captured. Surprisingly, Timur did not order
the execution of Bayezid, treating the defeated sultan with the utmost
respect and extending his magnanimity to the sultan’s sons who
pleaded for mercy.
The humiliation of living as a captive came to an end for Bayezid
when he died on March 8, 1403 in Akşehir.57 Meanwhile, Timur
pushed his conquests all the way to the shores of the Mediterranean
Sea, capturing Smyrna (Izmir) in December 1402, before returning to
Central Asia, where he died in 1405 just as he was preparing for the
invasion of China. As for Anatolia, his goal seemed to consist of
strengthening the Turkish beyliks of Karaman, Germiyan, and Hamid
against a possible Ottoman restoration by redistribution of Bayezid’s
empire. Mehmed, the prince of Karaman, was particularly favored by
Timur, who viewed him as the principal obstacle to the restoration of
Ottoman power and was thus rewarded with significant territory and
an impressive army. As a further deterrent, Bayezid’s sons, S€ uleyman,
Isa, Musa, and Mehmed, were all kept alive by Timur, who gave each a
small fiefdom, knowing that they would have to fight amongst them-
selves before one could emerge as the successor to their father.58 Thus
began a period of eleven years of war among Bayezid’s sons, which
came to be known as the Interregnum or ‘‘Fetret’’ in Turkish.59
Initially, the war for succession to Bayezid’s throne centered on
S€uleyman in Edirne, Isa in Bursa and Balikesir, and Mehmed in Ama-
sya. Having established himself in Edirne and using his father’s g^ azis
and cavalry forces, which had remained intact, S€ uleyman was the most
powerful of all contenders to the Ottoman throne. He consolidated his
position further when he signed several peace treaties with the Chris-
tian states of Europe. Through territorial concessions, such as the
return of Salonica to the Byzantine emperor in October 1403,
S€uleyman tried to gain the political and financial support of Serbia and
the Byzantine state. His strategy was to consolidate his rule in south-
east Europe and use it as a base to attack Anatolia with the support of
his newly found Christian allies. S€ uleyman’s brothers, Mehmed and
Founders of the Empire
Isa, viewed S€ uleyman as the principal threat to their rule, although all
three Ottoman princes accepted the suzerainty of Timur. Curiously,
perhaps, it was neither Musa, Isa, nor S€ uleyman (who Timur recog-
nized as his father’s successor because the Ottoman prince was cen-
tered in southeast Europe and did not pose any threat to Timur’s
empire in the Middle East and Central Asia) who emerged victorious
after eleven years of civil war, but Prince Mehmed of Amasya. Interest-
ing too that the Christian states of Europe failed to take advantage of
post-Timurid Ottoman disunity and internal strife to prevent the re-
emergence of Ottoman power and hegemony under a single ruler.
Instead, they allied themselves with one Ottoman prince against the
other in the hope that the sons of Bayezid would remain dependent on
European states for their survival. Thus, they ensured the restoration
of Ottoman power, which ultimately established itself as the hegemon
in the region after conquering Serbia, Constantinople, and eventually
As the new Ottoman sultan ruling a unified empire, Mehmed
removed the controversial religious leader Bedreddin and dismissed
the g^ azi leaders who had supported his brother Musa, sending them
into exile in Anatolia. To appease the Byzantine emperor, Manuel,
Mehmed returned Salonica and all Byzantine territory around Con-
stantinople. He also signed a peace treaty with Genoa and Venice.
Mehmed’s strategy was clear. He intended to restore the power of nota-
ble Ottoman families and religious leaders at home and rebuild the
army before engaging it in another military adventure. He soon real-
ized, however, that his peace strategy could be misinterpreted as a sign
of weakness, particularly among the leaders of various Turkish beyliks
in Anatolia who had gained a great deal from the defeat of Bayezid in
1402. Thus, Mehmed attacked the Turcoman Principalities of western
and southwestern Anatolia, recapturing most possessions that Murad
and Bayezid had taken from Karaman and that Timur had restored to
them after his victory at Ankara.60 The Ottoman sultan could not,
however, continue his military campaigns in Anatolia because of sev-
eral internal revolts that challenged Ottoman authority in Europe. The
first of these was led by the followers of Şeyh Bedreddin, who had been
sent into exile by Mehmed. The controversial religious leader did not
curtail his activities while in exile. Worse, he fled Ottoman territory
and soon landed in Wallachia, where he was received with pomp and
ceremony and sufficient support to mobilize his followers in Europe,
many of whom were recruited from among the Turkish nomads who
had recently moved from Anatolia. Inspired by his popularity, the
Şeyh’s followers in Anatolia began to organize local revolts to challenge
the Ottoman state. While the revolts in Anatolia were suppressed, the
situation in Rumeli (the European provinces of the Ottoman Empire)
deteriorated when Şeyh Bedreddin raised the flag of open rebellion in
Dobrudja. To make matters worse, a man claiming to be Prince Mus-
tafa, the lost son of Sultan Bayezid who had been held in prison by
Timur, surfaced and immediately staged a rebellion with the support of
the Byzantine state and Wallachia.61 Encouraged by these rebellions, the
Venetians attacked and destroyed the Ottoman fleet at Gallipoli on May
29, 1416.62 Mehmed sent one army against D€ uzme Mustafa (the False
Mustafa) and another against Bedreddin, scoring a quick victory against
the former who was defeated and forced to flee to Constantinople. In
the autumn of 1416, Ottoman forces crushed Şeyh Bedreddin’s revolt.63
Bedreddin himself was captured and shortly after executed on December
18, 1416.64 With the challenge from False Mustafa neutralized, Mehmed
turned east and completed his conquest of western and southwestern
Anatolia. He had already annexed Hamid in 1414, Aydin in 1415, and
Menteşe in 1416. Teke and Antalya were now added to Ottoman
domains.65 Though determined to pursue his victories in Anatolia,
Mehmed was forced to return to Europe where he carried out a series of
raids against Wallachia, forcing Prince Mircea to accept Ottoman suzer-
ainty and capturing the important strategic town of Giurgiu (Yerg€ og€
in 1419.66
With the death of Mehmed in 1421, his son ascended the Otto-
man throne as Murad II. His reign may be described as the most in-
triguing of all periods in Ottoman history. Perhaps the most fascinating
aspect of this period was the sultan himself, a man of science and
learning who despised wars and bloodshed and preferred poetry and
mysticism. He abdicated in favor of his son, Mehmed II, in 1444
but was forced to return to the throne in 1446 after his grand vezir,
Çandarli Halil, pleaded with him to assume the reins of power.
During the first three years of his reign, Murad focused his efforts
on eliminating the threat posed by the return of the False Mustafa,
who took Edirne with support from the Byzantine state.67 Mustafa
raised an army against the new sultan and Murad had to defend Bursa
and the rest of Ottoman territory against the pretender, who was con-
fronted and defeated at Ulubat in January 1422. Panicked by the
defeat, Mustafa escaped but was captured and killed in Edirne.68 The
elimination of the False Mustafa allowed Murad to attack the Byzan-
tine state, which had supported his uncle.69 His siege of Constantino-
ple, however, allowed Turcoman principalities in Anatolia to revolt,
encouraging the sultan’s younger brother, Mustafa, to attack Bursa.70
Murad was forced to raise the siege of the Byzantine capital and lead
his troops against Turcoman Principalities in Anatolia, which were
suppressed with ease.71 While Menteşe and Teke were recaptured in
Founders of the Empire
1425, the sultan could not annex the Karaman and the Candar. The Otto-
mans feared that an invasion of the Karaman would be used as a justifica-
tion by Shahrokh, the Timurid ruler of Iran, to invade Anatolia.72 They
could not have forgotten the bitter defeat of Bayezid at the battle of
Ankara in 1402, and they were determined not to commit the mistake of
providing an excuse for a son of Timur to invade Ottoman territory.
The Ottomans confronted two principal obstacles in their attempt
to establish total hegemony in southeast Europe. On the land, Hungary
possessed the political and military power to organize a unified Chris-
tian resistance against Ottoman domination. On the sea, the power
capable of creating serious obstacles to Ottoman hegemony was Ven-
ice, which took Salonica from the Byzantine state in the summer of
1423.73 The Venetians were determined to maintain their hegemony
over the trade and commerce of the Aegean and at the same time pre-
vent the establishment of Ottoman control in Macedonia and Alba-
nia.74 Thus, war between the two powers became inevitable. The
Ottoman–Venetian war continued until 1430, when Ottoman forces
captured Salonica. 75
In their attempt to prevent the Ottoman Empire from establishing
its control over southeast Europe, it was crucial for Hungarians to
maintain their influence over Serbia, Transylvania, and Wallachia,
which served as buffer states against northward Ottoman expansion.
Throughout Murad’s reign, the Ottomans fought to establish and pre-
serve the sultan’s suzerainty over Serbia and use it as a territorial base
to carry out raids against Hungary. In response, Hungarians pressured
Serbia and Wallachia to throw off Ottoman vassalage and join a unified
anti-Ottoman Christian alliance under their leadership. Meanwhile,
Serbia and Wallachia tried to maintain their independence by playing
one power against the other. When Ottoman armies were fighting in
distant Anatolia, Serbia and Wallachia carried out raids across the Dan-
ube with the encouragement and support of Hungary, but when the
sultan returned to Rumeli and carried out raids against their territory,
as Murad did in 1424, they retreated and eventually accepted Ottoman
suzerainty in return for a promise that the raids against their territory
would be stopped.76 This game of cat and mouse continued until 1427
when Djordje (George) Brankovic emerged as the ruler of Serbia. A
year later, the king of Hungary and the Ottoman sultan agreed to sign a
peace treaty, recognizing Brankovic as the prince of Serbia. For the
next three years, Serbia acted as a buffer state between the Hungarians
and the Ottomans.77 With the termination of the treaty in 1431, how-
ever, the conflict resurfaced. The sultan returned to the policy of
attacking Hungary, while the Hungarians tried to use their influence in
Bosnia, Serbia, and Wallachia to organize an anti-Ottoman coalition.
The Ottomans could not respond immediately to the situation in
the Balkans. Anatolia had been invaded by the armies of Shahrokh, the
ruler of Iran, in 1435.78 By reassuring the Timurid monarch that he
did not intend to undermine and destroy the independence of the prin-
cipality of Karaman and by supporting Shahrokh against the Mamluks
of Egypt, Murad avoided open warfare and expanded Ottoman power
and influence in Anatolia. With the Timurid threat neutralized, Murad
turned his attention to southeast Europe, where the death of the Hun-
garian monarch, Sigismund, in 1437, had resulted in internal anarchy
and chaos. That confusion allowed the Ottoman forces to carry out
attacks against Bosnia, Serbia, and Transylvania from 1438 to 1439,
capturing the important fortresses of Semendria that had been built by
the Serbian king Djordje Brankovic, and forcing the Serbs and the Bos-
nians to pay annual tribute to the Ottoman sultan. A year later, they
attacked Belgrade but failed to capture it.79
The Hungarian reaction to Ottoman raids was swift. The new
king of Poland and Hungary, Vladislav (Ladislas), appointed the Roma-
nian Janos (John) Hunyadi the governor of Transylvania. Under the
charismatic leadership of the new governor, the Hungarian forces
scored several impressive victories against Ottoman armies in 1441
and 1442, ‘‘killing tens of thousands of Ottoman soldiers at the battles
of Hermanstadt and Vazag (Jalomitcha).’’80 They recaptured the for-
tress of Semendria and pushed Ottoman forces out of Transylvania,
reviving the hope of Christian Europe that it was still possible to con-
front the Ottoman threat. With the active support from King Vladislav
and Djordje Brankovic, and the participation of crusaders who had
been mobilized from various European countries, Hunyadi pushed
through Ottoman defenses in southern Serbia capturing the town of
Niş, encouraging the Albanians under George Castriotes (Skanderbeg)
to rise against Ottoman authority and join the victorious Christian cru-
sade. With the momentum on his side and the main Ottoman army
bogged down in a campaign in Anatolia, Hunyadi led his forces
through the Balkan Mountains, entering western Bulgaria in 1443.81
With the winter of 1444 approaching, the Ottomans confronted a
multifaceted challenge. But then Hunyadi halted his southward push
from Bulgaria toward Edirne, allowing Murad sufficient time to devise
a diplomatic solution. It must have been clear to the sultan and his
advisors that they needed time to reorganize their forces. With encour-
agement from his grand vezir and his Serbian wife Mora, Murad began
to negotiate for a cessation of hostilities.82 The Treaty of Edirne signed
with Hungary and its allies on June 12, 1444 can, therefore, be viewed
as an attempt by the Ottomans to buy time and neutralize the formida-
ble alliance organized against them. Hunyadi demanded and received
Founders of the Empire
the promise that Ottoman forces would return to Anatolia. The
Ottomans maintained their rule over Bulgaria.84 The true winner, how-
ever, was Djordje Brankovic, who restored the autonomy of the Serbian
state.85 Back in Anatolia in the summer of 1444, Murad signed
the Treaty of Yenişehir with the Karaman, ceding some of the territory
of Hamid that he had occupied.86 The sultan then abdicated in favor
of his twelve-year-old son, who ascended the Ottoman throne as
Mehmed II.87
Murad’s abdication caused ‘‘a power struggle’’ within the Ottoman
government between the grand vezir, Çandarli Halil, and the new
sultan’s personal tutor, Zaganos, and the beylerbey of Rumeli,
Şih^abeddin.88 Meanwhile, a new campaign was being organized and
led by Hungary. The Hungarians enjoyed the support of the Pope, the
Byzantine state, Venice, and George Castriotes in Albania.89 Alarmed
by the prospect of another attack by Hunyadi, the factions within the
government decided that the young Mehmed II would be incapable of
leading the empire at a time of such serious crisis and appealed to
Murad to assume the command of the Ottoman army.90 The Christian
army, organized in Buda under the leadership of the king of Hungary
and Poland, had already pushed south toward Bulgaria with the goal of
attacking the Ottoman capital at Edirne. Despite several early suc-
cesses, however, the Christian army suffered a devastating defeat at
Varna on November 10, 1444, after King Vladislav was killed on the
battlefield.91 The last concerted effort to halt the Ottoman conquest of
the Balkans had failed, and the Ottoman Empire regained the prestige
and power lost to Hunyadi. The Ottoman victory at Varna also sealed
the fate of the Byzantine state.92 Less than ten years after Varna, the
Ottomans would sack the city of Constantinople and bring to an end
the reign of Byzantine emperors. Following his victory at Varna, Murad
withdrew from politics again, but his retirement lasted only two years.
Soon the internal conflict within the Ottoman government erupted
again. The grand vezir, Çandarli Halil, defended Murad’s policy of
peace with the Christian states, while the advisers of the young
Mehmed, Zaganos and Şih^abeddin, blamed the Byzantine state for
organizing the anti-Ottoman alliance and advocated a ‘‘final assault’’ on
Constantinople.93 An uprising by the janissaries organized by the
wily Çandarli Halil forced Mehmed to abdicate in favor of his father, who
ascended the throne for a second time. Once on the throne, Murad car-
ried out a series of aggressive campaigns against former vassals.94 The
sultan was clearly convinced that some, if not all, of the southeastern
European provinces had to be brought under the direct rule of the
Ottoman state. Thus, after forcing the Byzantine ruler of Morea to
accept Ottoman suzerainty, Murad began to impose direct rule in much
of mainland Greece.95 The same policy was applied to Bulgaria, where
local princes who had betrayed their allegiance to the sultan were dis-
missed and replaced by Ottoman administrators.96 When the Hungar-
ians led by Hunyadi attacked Ottoman territory again, Murad inflicted
another devastating defeat on their army at the second battle of Kosovo
in October 1448. With Ottoman rule firmly established south of the
Danube, Murad sent his forces to Wallachia in 1449, punishing the
country for lending its support to Hunyadi and forcing it to accept
Ottoman suzerainty.97 He also attacked Skanderbeg in Albania in
1450. By the time Murad died in February 1451, he had reestablished
Ottoman rule within the territory controlled by Bayezid before his
defeat at the hands of Timur in 1402. In the process, the Ottomans had
recognized that creating an empire based on a system of vassals was
inherently unstable and, therefore, untenable. To maintain a strong
and unified empire, there was no other alternative but to impose direct
Ottoman rule.

1. Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Sulayman Ar-Rawandi, Rahat us-Sudur wa
Ayat us-Surur, ed. Muhammad Iqbal (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1921), 86–7.
2. Ibid., 100–1. Muhammad ibn Hussein Bayhaqi, Tarikh-i Bayhaqi
(Tehran: 1945), 602–27.
3. Bayhaqi, Tarikh-i Bayhaqi, 796. Claude Cahen, The Formation of
Turkey: The Seljukid Sultanate of Rum: Eleventh to Fourteenth Century, trans.
P.M. Holt (Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2001), 1.
4. Rawandi, Rahat us-Sudur, 104.
5. Ibid., 105–6.
6. Cahen, The Formation of Turkey, 2.
7. John Julius Norwich, A Short History of Byzantium (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 240–1.
8. See Cahen, The Formation of Turkey, 7–14, 75–85.
9. M. Fuad K€ opr€
u, The Origins of the Ottoman Empire, trans. Gary
Leiser (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 43.
10. See Ata Malik Juwaini, Tarikh-i Jahangosha (Tehran: 1984).
11. I.P. Petrushevsky, ‘‘The Socio-Economic Condition of Iran Under
the Il-Khans’’ in The Cambridge History of Iran, ed. J.A. Boyle (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1968), 5:486.
12. Ibid.
13. Hamdullah Mostowfi, Nuzhat ul-Qulub, ed. G.L.E. Strange (Leiden:
E.J. Brill, 1915), 27.
14. Ibn Bibi, Akhbar-e Salajeqe-ye Rum (Tehran: 1971), 182–83.
Founders of the Empire
15. For an excellent discussion of the tribal origins of Osman, see
u, The Origins of the Ottoman Empire, 72–7.
16. Barbara Jelavich, History of the Balkans Eighteenth and Nineteenth
Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 30–1.
17. Ibid., 31.
18. Several sources maintain that Osman began his reign as early as
1280 or 1281.
19. See Heath W. Lowry, The Nature of the Early Ottoman State
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003).
20. Ibid., 45–6.
21. Ibid., 46.
22. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:13–14.
23. Ibid., 1:14.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid.
26. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 43. K€ opr€
u, The Origins of the Otto-
man Empire, 109.
27. The Travels of Ibn Battuta A.D. 1325–1354, trans. H.A.R. Gibb
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962), 2:449–50.
28. Ibid., 2:451–52.
29. Ibid., 2:452.
30. Norwich, A Short History of Byzantium, 339.
31. Ibid.
32. Ibid., 340.
33. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:16.
34. Ibid.
35. Ibid.
36. Norwich, A Short History of Byzantium, 345.
37. Ibid., 345–46.
38. Ibid., 346.
39. Ibid., 348.
40. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 30.
41. Ibid., 31.
42. Caroline Finkel, Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire
1300–1923 (New York: Basic Books, 2005), 17.
43. Ibid.
44. Ibid.
45. Ibid.
46. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 31.
47. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 21.
48. Ibid.
49. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 14–15.
50. Nagy Pienaru, ‘‘The Black Sea and the Ottomans: the Pontic Policy
of Bayezid the Thunderbolt’’ in Ottoman Borderlands: Issues, Personalities,
and Political Changes, ed. Kemal H. Karpat with Robert W. Zens (Madison:
The University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), 33.
51. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:33.
52. Ibid., 1:35.
53. Khand Mir, Habib us-Siyyar, 4 vols. (Tehran, 1984), 3:455–59.
54. Ibid., 3:490.
55. Ibid.
56. Ibid., 3:506–7.
57. Ibid., 3:513.
58. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty, 6.
59. Ibid.
60. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:42.
61. Ibid., 1:43.
62. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 18.
63. Ibid.
64. Somel, Historical Dictionary of the Ottoman Empire, xxi. Finkel,
Osman’s Dream, 34–5.
65. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:44.
66. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 18. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Otto-
man Rule, 28.
67. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 59.
68. Somel, Historical Dictionary of the Ottoman Empire, xxi.
69. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 19.
70. Ibid.
71. Ibid.
72. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:45.
73. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 19. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 60.
Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:46–7.
74. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:47.
75. Ibid., 1:48. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 19.
76. Ibid., 1:47.
77. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 19.
78. Ibid., 60.
79. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 28–9. Shaw, His-
tory of the Ottoman Empire, 1:50.
80. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 60–1.
81. Ibid., 61.
82. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:52.
83. Ibid.
84. Ibid.
85. Ibid.
86. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 20.
87. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:52.
88. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 20.
Founders of the Empire
89. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 29.
90. Tursun Beg, The History of Mehmed the Conqueror, trans. Halil Inal-
cik and Rhoads Murphey (Minneapolis: Bibliotheca Islamic, 1978), 32.
91. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:53.
92. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 29. Inalcik, Otto-
man Empire, 21.
93. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 20–1.
94. Ibid., 21.
95. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:53.
96. Ibid.
97. Ibid., 1:54.
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Many Muslim rulers had dreamed of capturing Constantinople. As
early as AD 674, the Umayyad caliphs, who ruled a vast Islamic empire
from their capital in Damascus, Syria, had attacked the city. They
tried for the second time in 717–718, but failed again.1 Although the
Byzantine state was now devoid of its ancient glory and power, Con-
stantinople held significant strategic, financial, and symbolic value.
The city connected the Black Sea to the Aegean and provided the
shortest and easiest land route from Anatolia to the Balkans.2 It also
separated the Anatolian possessions of the Ottoman state from its
southeast European provinces.3 As long as it remained in the hands of
the Byzantine state, the city could be used as a base for attacks against
Ottoman armies and to blockade shipping from the Black Sea to the
Aegean. Economically, Constantinople was an important center of
commerce and trade, the most important stop for the traders and mer-
chants who carried goods from Central Asia, Iran, and Anatolia to
Europe. The city was also home to important merchant communities,
such as the Venetians and the Genovese, who functioned as middlemen
between the economies of Asia and Europe. Finally, the symbolic as-
pect of conquest was as important as its strategic and economic value.
The city was known as the Rome of the east, and the Greek rulers of
the Byzantine state carried the title of Caesar.4 For the Ottoman rulers,
who lacked the noble blood of the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad and the
imperial lineage of the Byzantine emperors, the conquest of Constanti-
nople would add a great deal of prestige and legitimacy.5 Indeed, it
would promote them from the status of a prominent regional player to
that of a superpower, while at the same time filling the coffers of the
state treasury and providing more fuel to the Ottoman military
machine. From the very beginning of their empire, the Ottoman sul-
tans had viewed Constantinople as the greatest prize they could
acquire. The symbolic significance of the city was reflected in the con-
cept of Kizil Elma (Red Apple), an expression the Ottomans used to
speak of Constantinople as the most important prize in their drive to
create a world empire.6 By plucking the red apple, the sultan could
end the reign of Byzantine emperors who had offered protection to
numerous pretenders to the Ottoman throne, stirring up internal con-
flicts and civil wars that had undermined the security and stability of
the Ottoman state.7 It should not come as a surprise, then, that upon
ascending to the throne in February 1451, Mehmed II ordered his
army to prepare for the siege and assault of the city.
Despite all these potential benefits, some powerful Ottoman offi-
cials opposed the attack. The most prominent among them was the
grand vezir Çandarli Halil. Mehmed disliked the aging statesman for
the role he had played during his father’s abdication when the young
Mehmed had temporarily ruled as the sultan, only to be deposed with
the encouragement and support from the janissaries and Çandarli
Halil.8 Confident of his power and influence inside the government,
Çandarli Halil now opposed the dream that the young sultan had
cherished since childhood. Mehmed enjoyed the grand vezir’s vehe-
ment opposition to the project, for it had already tarnished his reputa-
tion by allowing opponents at the court to label him as the agent of the
Greek emperor and the alleged recipient of bribes from the Byzantine
In preparing for the final assault on Constantinople, Mehmed
constructed an Ottoman navy to impose a blockade on the city. A for-
tress called Rumeli Hissar (European Fortress), armed with siege can-
nons, was built on the Bosphorus to destroy any ships that might try
to run the blockade and supply the city’s starving population with
fighting men, weaponry, and provisions from Black Sea colonies.9
Meanwhile, by the spring of 1453, the Ottomans had assembled one of
the largest and most formidable land forces the ancient empire had
ever seen. By then, the population of the city had decreased signifi-
cantly, as many of its residents had fled before the assault began. Those
who remained behind fought heroically and repulsed several Ottoman
assaults, but they were fighting a losing battle against one of the
world’s best armies. On May 29, the Ottoman troops broke through the
city’s walls and defenses. The last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI,
who was fighting with the city’s defenders, was killed during the battle.
In accordance with the established practice of the day, a city conquered
by assault was subjected to plunder by the conquering army.10 As the
Ottoman troops swept through the city, the sultan walked into the
Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya or St. Sophia), the church built by the em-
peror Justinian in the sixth century AD, and declared it a mosque for
Zenith of Ottoman Power
Islam, proclaiming ‘‘Hereafter my capital is Istanbul.’’ After allowing
his army to pillage the city for three days, the sultan ordered the recon-
struction of his new capital.12 To establish himself as the new caesar
and padişah who had inherited the Byzantine Empire, Mehmed had to
create a government that could serve as the exclusive instrument of his
will. For the Ottoman state to be recognized as a world power, its capi-
tal had to represent not only power and prosperity but also openness
and tolerance. Thus, the Greek population, which had been decimated,
was invited to return, and the Greek Orthodox Church, under the
leadership of its Patriarch, was allowed to remain and prosper under
the protection of the sultan.13 The sultan also invited the Armenian
Patriarch to settle in his new capital.14 In order to attract Muslim reli-
gious leaders and scholars, Mehmed ordered the construction of the
Fatih Mosque overlooking the Bosphorus.15 By the end of his reign,
the construction of new mosques, medresas, and bazaars had restored
much of Istanbul’s past glory and prosperity.
With the conquest of Constantinople, Mehmed received the title
of Fatih (the Conqueror). The capture of the city made the young sul-
tan the most powerful and popular sovereign in the entire Islamic
world. Confident of his ability, Mehmed introduced an absolutist rule.
To ensure the loyalty of the officials and commanders who surrounded
him and to remind all those at the court who was in charge of the
empire’s affairs, he ordered the execution of Çandarli Halil and the
expropriation of his wealth. The message was loud and clear. The sul-
tan was the sole master of his empire and did not tolerate any opposi-
tion or criticism of his decisions, even if it came from such a prominent
and powerful individual. The government officials were servants of the
sultan; they obeyed and executed his orders and did not enjoy the right
to interfere and undermine the royal decrees and decisions.
Mehmed also ordered the construction of a new palace to re-
present the new style of leadership. Built on land overlooking the
Bosphorus, the new palace, which was named Topkapi (Cannon
Gate), allowed the sultan to live in privacy and seclusion.16 Before
Mehmed, Ottoman sultans intermingled with their officials, army
commanders, and even soldiers. The design of Topkapi, however, made
the Ottoman sultan less accessible to his government, the army, and
the populace. Several buildings and many layers of palace hierarchy
stood between a visiting dignitary or ambassador and the sultan. The
eunuchs and the divan, or the council chamber, where the grand vezir
and his ministers met four times a week, were some of the layers that
blocked direct access to the sultan.
Having established himself as the most powerful Muslim sover-
eign, Mehmed had to confront those European powers posing the most
serious threat to Ottoman hegemony in southeastern Europe, namely
Hungary to the north and Venice to the west. The Hungarians intended
to use their influence on Serbia, which had been resurrected in 1444,
to maintain and expand their power in the Balkans. For the Ottomans,
there was no other alternative but to confront Hungary by bringing
Serbia under their direct control. In two campaigns, the first in 1454
and the second in 1455, Mehmed tried to impose Ottoman rule on Ser-
bia, but he failed to capture Belgrade in 1456. When Djordje Brankovic
died, the conflict between the Ottoman state and Hungary resurfaced.
After another series of campaigns in 1459, Mehmed finally occupied
much of Serbia, but the problem of Hungarian involvement in Serbian
internal affairs persisted until the reign of S€
uleyman the Magnificent,
when the Ottomans finally occupied Belgrade and used it as a land
bridge to attack and defeat the Hungarians.
As for Venice, Mehmed moved his forces to the Morea in 1459,
establishing Ottoman control over the region by 1460.17 The Ottoman
position in the region, however, remained tenuous since Venice contin-
ued to hold such important strategic fortresses as Modon and Coron,
which were supported from the sea by the Venetian maritime forces.
Taking advantage of the collapse of Byzantine power, Venice also estab-
lished itself on the Isthmus of Corinth, using it as a land bridge to push
northward and threaten the Ottoman forces from the rear. The result
was the renewal of wars with Venice which would continue until 1479,
undermining Mehmed’s attempts to establish Ottoman control over
mainland Greece.
In 1463, Ottoman forces invaded and occupied Bosnia.18 In sharp
contrast to other Christian areas of southeastern Europe, in Bosnia
there were massive conversions to Islam following the Ottoman con-
quest.19 As mosques and religious schools transformed the urban land-
scape, Islam gradually penetrated the Bosnian countryside. The newly
converted Bosnian nobility retained its Slavic language and culture and
gradually emerged as a close ally of the Ottoman state, which rewarded
it with enormous political and economic power.20
The invasion and occupation of Bosnia reignited the war with the
Hungarians, who sought an alliance with Venice. In searching for for-
midable allies who could strengthen their united front against the
Ottomans, Hungary and Venice sought and received the support of the
Albanian rebel, Skanderbeg. Their most important ally was not, how-
ever, a Christian prince, but a new Muslim ruler by the name of Hasan
Beyk also known as Uzun Hasan (Tall Hasan), who was determined to
resurrect the empire of Timur. Venetian ambassadors arrived at the
court of Uzun Hasan, the chief of the Ak Koyunlu (White Sheep) Tur-
comans, to negotiate an alliance that would allow Venice and the Ak
Zenith of Ottoman Power
Koyunlu forces to coordinate a joint military campaign against the
Ottoman Empire.
Since the early 1460s, the Ottomans had watched anxiously the
rise of Uzun Hasan as the ruler of a new and powerful state in eastern
and southeastern Anatolia. In November 1467, Uzun Hasan defeated
Jahan Shah, the leader of the rival Kara Koyunlu (Black Sheep). Two
years later, he routed the armies of the Timurid prince, Abu Said, and
Jahan Shah’s son, Hasan Ali, who committed suicide.21 With these im-
pressive victories, Uzun Hasan emerged as the master of Iran, and the
tone of his letters to Mehmed shifted from a humble and obedient ally
to a proud and confident monarch who viewed himself as an equal to
the conqueror of Constantinople, a change that could not have gone
unnoticed by Mehmed.22
The Ak Koyunlu leader was well aware that he needed allies in
his confrontation with the Ottoman state. To the south, the Mamluks,
who ruled Egypt and Syria, constituted the most powerful state in the
region. Uzun Hasan maintained a close relationship with the Mamluks
as demonstrated by the correspondence between the rulers of the two
states. He hoped that the Ak Koyunlu and the Mamluks would form an
alliance against the Ottomans. Between the Ottomans and the Ak
Koyunlu in Anatolia stood the last two remaining Turcoman Principal-
ities, the Dulkadir/Dulgadir and the Karaman, the latter having been
defeated and conquered by Mehmed between 1468 and 1470.23 Despite
their defeat and loss of independence, the chiefs of Karaman had not
given up on the dream of regaining their principality by using the Ak
Koyunlu as an ally against the Ottomans. Since the annexation of their
principality, they had sought refuge in the Taurus Mountains, appealing
persistently to Uzun Hasan for an alliance against the Ottomans.24 The
powers willing and committed to wage an attack on the Ottoman state
were the Venetians and the Knights of Rhodes, who had sent emissaries
to court the Turcoman chief, forming an alliance in 1464 and providing
him with financial support and weaponry.25 As a formidable maritime
power, Venice could attack the Ottomans from the west while the Ak
Koyunlu waged a land assault from the east. In 1472, after he had
received an urgent request from the Karaman for support against a
major Ottoman force led by the sultan, Uzun Hasan mobilized his army
for a major campaign and attacked eastern Anatolia.26
An Ottoman army of nearly one hundred thousand was mobilized
to face the Ak Koyunlu threat. The decisive battle took place near the
village of Başkent in northeastern Anatolia on August 11, 1473.27 The
Ottoman forces, which included ten thousand janissaries, inflicted a
crushing defeat on the Ak Koyunlu army, killing one of Uzun Hasan’s
sons and forcing the Turcoman chief to flee the battlefield.28 As part of
the victory celebration over Uzun Hasan, in one day alone, three thou-
sand members of the Ak Koyunlu were executed. At each stop on their
way back to Istanbul, the Ottomans beheaded four hundred Ak
Koyunlu men, leaving their bodies on the road as a warning to those
who were contemplating a revolt against the authority of the sultan.29
With the defeat of Ak Koyunlu, the Karaman as well as Kastamonu and
Trebizond were fully incorporated into the Ottoman state.
Genoa and Venice had instigated the conflict between the Otto-
mans and Uzun Hasan by financing and arming the Ak Koyunlu ruler.
The attack on Genoa was primarily focused on the Genovese colonies
of Amasra, Sinop, Trebizond, Kaffa, and Sudak on the Black Sea, which
the Ottomans forced to pay annual tribute before occupying them
between 1459 and 1475.30 On the other hand, the assault on Venice
began by Ottoman forces laying siege to the Venetian-held district of
Shkod€er (Işkodra) in Albania. After four years of war, the two parties
reached a peace agreement.31 According to this agreement, Shkod€er,
Akçahisar, Lemnos, and the islands of Euboia were ceded to the Otto-
man Empire, while Venice retained its control of Lepanto, Coron, and
Modon in the Morea as well as the right to trade in the sultan’s domains.
Venice also agreed to pay the sultan ten thousand gold coins annually.32
With Venice and Genoa neutralized for a time, Mehmed pursued
his strategy of establishing a complete Ottoman hegemony on the
Black Sea basin by bringing the Crimean Tatars under Ottoman protec-
tion. In return for Ottoman protection against the empire of the
Golden Horde, the Khanate of Crimea accepted Ottoman suzerainty in
1475. Thus, the northern shores of the Black Sea were incorporated
into the Ottoman state, which came to dominate maritime trade in the
With the establishment of Ottoman rule in the Black Sea region,
Mehmed turned his attention once again to Venice and concentrated
his energy and forces on an ambitious plan to conquer Italy. He also
intended to capture Rhodes from the Knights of Hospitallers, but the
army he sent against them was defeated. However, the Ottoman forces
attacking Italy landed at Otranto in the summer of 1480, establishing a
land base from which they planned to pursue their conquest the fol-
lowing spring. The Italian city states as well as the Pope in Rome were
preparing themselves for the worst when the news of Mehmed’s death
arrived. The sultan died at forty-nine years of age in May 1481, before
his dream of conquering Italy could become a reality.34
Upon Mehmed’s death, a war of succession erupted between the
sultan’s older son, Prince Cem, and his younger son, Prince Bayezid.
During his life, the Conqueror and his grand vezir Karamani Mehmed
Paşa had favored Cem. However, powerful forces within the state,
Zenith of Ottoman Power
particularly the janissaries stationed in Istanbul, and influential army
commanders, such as Gedik Ahmed Paşa and his father-in-law Işak
Paşa, who despised the grand vezir, supported Prince Bayezid.35 As
soon as Mehmed died, the army commanders went into action, encour-
aging janissary units stationed in the capital to riot and storm the pal-
ace, where they killed the grand vezir. Meanwhile, Işak Paşa blocked
Prince Cem and his supporters from reaching Istanbul. This allowed
Prince Bayezid to rush to Istanbul and declare himself the sultan. Cem
did not, however, accept defeat. Although he had failed to reach the
Ottoman capital in time to declare himself the new sultan, Cem rallied
his supporters, who assembled in Bursa. With his supporters rallying
to his cause, Cem declared himself the sultan of Anatolia in May 1481
and proposed to divide the empire, taking Anatolia for himself and
allowing Bayezid to rule as the sultan of Rumeli.36
After rejecting Cem’s offer to divide the empire, Bayezid led his
troops against his brother, who was defeated at Yenişehir in June 1481.
Cem and his supporters fled the battlefield and eventually sought ref-
uge in Mamluk territory. To undermine the internal stability of their
powerful neighbor to the north, the Mamluks provided Cem with suffi-
cient support to organize an army. The ‘‘practice of offering political
asylum to Ottoman princes was a longstanding method used by Mam-
luk sultans to divide and weaken the Ottoman house.’’37 Cem was also
joined by dispossessed Turkish princes, notables, and feudal lords,
such as the former ruler of Karaman. In the spring of 1482, Cem
marched his forces from Syria into central Anatolia, but the rebellion
by the Turkish aristocracy that he had hoped for did not materialize.
His attempt to capture Konya also failed when his army was defeated
by Bayezid’s eldest son, Abdullah.38 By July, when his army reached
Ankara, Cem recognized that neither the janissaries nor the Turkish ar-
istocracy would rally around his banner.39 The collapse of Cem’s last
campaign convinced the prince of Karaman to renounce his claims and
join the Ottoman ruling elite as a governor. Other Turcoman notables
followed suit, setting aside their differences with the sultan and joining
Ottoman service. With the disappearance of Karaman, which had
served as a buffer between the Ottoman Empire and the Mamluks of
Egypt, a confrontation between the two powerful Muslim states
became inevitable. Starting in 1484, the two sides waged a series of
campaigns over the fate of Dulkadir, the last remaining Turkish princi-
pality in southern Anatolia.40 Despite their initial success against the
Ottomans, the Mamluks decided to sue for peace in 1491. The peace
between the Ottomans and the Mamluks lasted until 1516 when Baye-
zid’s son and successor, Sultan Selim (The Grim), attacked and con-
quered Syria and Egypt and put an end to Mamluk rule.
In southeast Europe, Bayezid organized a series of campaigns
against Moldavia, capturing the fortresses of Kilia and Akkerman and
occupying the entire western and northwestern shores of the Black Sea
by the summer of 1484, thus blocking Hungary, Moldavia, and Walla-
chia from enjoying access to the mouth of the Danube.41 The sultan’s
conquest of Moldavian territory made Poland the new northern neigh-
bor of the Ottoman Empire. Convinced that they would be the next
target of the sultan, the Poles attacked in 1497, but they were defeated
by an Ottoman army in Bukovina and forced to sue for peace in 1499.
The Poles had recognized that the war with the Ottoman Empire had
benefited the Crimean Tatars, who expanded their territory northward
at the expense of the Polish state and Muscovy.
During this tumultuous period, as he fought the Mamluks in the
south and conquered Moldavian territory to the north, the sultan con-
solidated his authority within the central government. The conflict
between Cem and Bayezid had partially reflected the tension within
the Ottoman system between the old Turkish aristocracy and the kapi
kullari (the Christian boys who were trained as slaves of the sultan)
who had been recruited through the devşirme system. Bayezid had
seized the Ottoman throne with the active support of devşirme, who
exercised a great deal of power over him. To free himself from their
influence, Bayezid ordered the execution of Gedik Ahmed Paşa and
dismissed his father-in-law, the grand vezir Işak Paşa, in 1482 and
replaced them with men who owed their new position and power to
him.42 Many of the new appointees were recruited from the ranks of
Turkish aristocracy and ulema who had initially supported Prince
Cem. By allowing them to occupy the positions of power, the sultan
tried to check the influence of devşirme on the throne and diminish the
power and influence of Cem, who had remained popular among many
segments of Ottoman society.
After the collapse of his campaigns in central Anatolia, Cem fled
to Rhodes, where he sought the protection and support of the Chris-
tian knights who ruled the island. To neutralize Cem, Bayezid paid the
knights forty-five thousand gold pieces, requesting that his brother be
transported as far away from the Ottoman territory as possible.43 With
support and encouragement from the Knights of Rhodes, Cem traveled
to France and from there to Italy where he met Pope Innocent VIII in
1486.44 His popularity among the Ottoman ruling class and populace
made Cem even more attractive to Europe and dangerous to the sultan.
After Rome was attacked and occupied by the French monarch Charles
VIII in 1495, Cem was detained and dispatched to France. Before
reaching France, however, he died suddenly in Naples in February
1495.45 The news of Cem’s death must have come as a relief to the
Zenith of Ottoman Power
sultan in Istanbul. As long as Cem was alive, Bayezid had maintained a
cautious and conciliatory approach toward the Christian states of
Europe.46 With Cem out of the picture, the Ottomans built a strong
fleet to challenge Venetian naval hegemony in the eastern Mediterra-
nean and dislodge their trading outposts and bases in Greece and the
eastern Adriatic coast. Thus, during a four-year campaign that began in
1499 and ended in 1503, the Ottoman forces attacked and occupied
the Venetian fortresses of Modon, Navarino, Coron, and Lepanto.47
The peace agreement signed in 1503 allowed Venice to retain some of
its ports in Morea and Albania, but it also confirmed the emergence of
the Ottoman Empire as a major naval and economic power with firm
control over shipping and trade routes that connected the Black Sea to
the Aegean and the Mediterranean.
After the conclusion of peace with Venice, Bayezid began to with-
draw from active participation in the day-to-day affairs of the empire,
delegating much of his power to the grand vezir. The sultan had always
been a great champion of learning and arts. He preferred spending time
with scholars, historians, poets, musicians, and sufi mystics. He sup-
ported Kemal Paşazade in writing his Tev^ ^ Osman (Histories of
arih-i Al-i
the Ottoman Dynasty) and Idris Bitlisi in completing his Heşt Behişt
(Eight Heavens) or the history of the Ottoman Empire under the first
eight sultans in verse.
The reign of Bayezid II (1481–1512) witnessed the consolidation
of Mehmed’s conquests. The sultan also reversed some of the harsh
policies of his father. In his zeal to expand his empire, Mehmed II had
increased custom duties as well as taxes on the peasantry.48 Aside from
debasing the silver coinage, he had also tried to increase the state reve-
nue by confiscating thousands of villages that had been held either as
religious endowments (vakif) or privately owned farms (emlak, plural
of m€ulk) and distributing them as timars.49 These measures had gener-
ated strong opposition from notable families, the ulema, şeyhs, and
dervişes.50 Furthermore, Mehmed’s unceasing drive to expand his
empire had exhausted the janissary corps, who rebelled shortly after
the news of the sultan’s death. Bayezid reduced the taxes on custom
duties and the peasantry. He also restored respect for Islamic law and
returned the villages that had been confiscated by his father to their
rightful owners, thereby winning the hearts and minds of the religious
classes. To win the support of the janissary corps, he significantly
reduced the number of military campaigns.
The conciliatory policies of Bayezid worked until 1501, when a
new threat from the east began to loom on the horizon. The rise of the
Shia Safavid dynasty in Iran reenergized the Turcoman tribes in south-
ern and eastern Anatolia, who opposed the centralizing tendencies of
the Ottoman government and were drawn toward heterodox religious
movements. The arrival of pro-Safavid Shia preachers from Iran, who
heralded the arrival of a new Imam and savior, ignited a popular move-
ment that threatened the power and the prestige of the Ottoman state.
The Safavids conquered Baghdad in 1504. Three years later, they
attacked the principality of Dulkadir, ‘‘which lay in the Ottoman
sphere of influence,’’ and occupied Kharput and Diyarbakir in south-
eastern Anatolia.51 Meanwhile, their agents continued to fan the flames
of discontent in Anatolia where a pro-Safavid revolt erupted in 1511.
With the sultan failing to suppress the uprising, the time had come for
a change in direction and leadership of the empire.
As Bayezid began to display the signs of aging and illness, the
contest for succession to the Ottoman throne intensified. The sultan
had five sons, two of whom had died, leaving the contest to the three
remaining adult princes, Ahmed, Korkud, and Selim. The eldest and
the favorite of the sultan was Ahmed, who had been appointed by his
father as the governor of Amasya. The second son, Korkud was the
most learned, having been educated at the court of his grandfather
Mehmed II in Islamic sciences, music, and poetry. The shrewdest son,
however, was Selim, who had consolidated his position among the jan-
issaries, where apprehension about the Safavid Shia threat from Iran
was the greatest. By the spring of 1512, Bayezid’s policy of appease-
ment toward Safavid Iran could no longer be tolerated. Thus, the janis-
sary divisions stationed in Istanbul forced Bayezid to abdicate. While
Selim rushed to the capital to assume the reins of power, Bayezid
departed Istanbul to avoid conflict with his son and to live the remain-
ing years of his life in peaceful seclusion. The retiring sultan, however,
died before arriving at his destination.
Selim ascended the Ottoman throne with the goal of reversing
his father’s conciliatory approach to neighboring powers and reintro-
ducing the aggressive and expansionist policies of his grandfather
Mehmed II, which had aimed at the creation of a world empire. The
principal instrument in Selim’s drive to world supremacy was the jan-
issary corps, whose power, size, salary, and prestige were greatly
enhanced during his reign. Aware of the anarchy and chaos that the
succession process introduced to the Ottoman body politic, Selim
eliminated all of his brothers and nephews, leaving only one of his
own sons alive in order to guarantee the peaceful transition of power
and the preservation and continuation of the dynasty. He then
embarked on an ambitious campaign to neutralize the threat posed
by two formidable powers in the Islamic world. In the process, he
halted the spread of Shia Islam in Anatolia and established Ottoman
rule in the heart of the Arab world. The first challenge came from the
Zenith of Ottoman Power
Safavid dynasty in Iran, which had reunified the Iranian state under
the charismatic leadership of Shah Ismail (1487–1524). Although the
Safavid family claimed descent from Musa Kazim, the seventh Shia
Imam, their actual origins have been traced to the great scholar and
sufi leader, Sheikh Safi ud-Din of Ardebil (1252–1334). Ismail
enjoyed enormous power and prestige among the Turcoman tribal
groups who had settled in northern Syria and southern as well as
eastern Anatolia. Having converted to Shia Islam, they emerged as
the military backbone of the Safavid state. As they wore a distinct red
headgear, which comprised twelve triangles representing the twelve
Imams of Shia Islam, they came to be known as the Kizilbaş or
Qizilbaş (Red Heads). With the support and participation of the
Kizilbaş tribesmen, who considered him a direct descendant of the
Prophet Muhammad and their religious and spiritual leader, Shah
Ismail dreamt of recreating the Persian empire of pre-Islamic Iran,
which extended from the plains of Central Asia to the eastern shores
of the Mediterranean Sea.
For Selim, the Ottoman invasion of eastern Anatolia could not
confine itself to a military confrontation with Shah Ismail’s army. Aside
from destroying the Kizilbaş forces, Selim had to uproot the social base
of support and the rural and urban networks that the Safavids and their
supporters had established. Thus, as the Ottoman army pushed into
central and eastern Anatolia, tens of thousands of men and women
who were suspected of sympathizing with the Safavid cause were mas-
sacred and their bodies displayed on the roads as a reminder to those
who dreamt of joining the Shia Iranians. The confrontation between
the Ottoman and Safavid armies took place on the plain of Ch^aldiran
(Ch^alduran) northeast of Lake Van on August 23, 1514.52 The Iranians
were defeated and forced to retreat after the Ottoman artillery and
muskets destroyed the Safavid cavalry, which was armed with swords,
spears, and bows. The Ottoman forces pushed into the heart of Azer-
baijan, capturing Tabriz, the political, administrative, and military
heart of Safavid Iran.
The arrival of an early and harsh winter, the incessant surprise
attacks by Safavid irregulars who harassed and cut off the Ottoman
army’s limited food supplies, and the increasing pressure from the jan-
issary units on the sultan to return, however, forced Selim to withdraw
his army back to eastern Anatolia. The two powers did not negotiate a
peace treaty, and frontier raids and skirmishes continued for the next
four decades. Although the Ottomans withdrew their forces from Azer-
baijan, the victory at Ch^aldiran neutralized the immediate threat posed
by the Shia Safavids, allowing Selim to impose Ottoman rule over east-
ern Anatolia and much of Kurdistan.
The second campaign in the east centered on Egypt and Syria,
which had been ruled since the thirteenth century by the Mamluks.
The Mamluks had always been a source of great irritation to the Otto-
mans. They frequently provided pretenders to the Ottoman throne and
dissatisfied and rebellious Turkish princes with a safe base of opera-
tion. They also laid claim to territories in southern Anatolia, particu-
larly in the region of Cilicia, which blocked Ottoman access to the
Arab world. Finally, by holding claim to the holiest sites in Islam,
Mecca and Medina, the Mamluks challenged the claim of the Ottoman
sultan to act as the principal defender of Islam. Regardless, Selim used
the imaginary alliance between the Mamluks and the Safavids as his
principal justification to attack Syria. Unlike the heretical Shia Irani-
ans, the Mamluks were Sunni Muslims, but they had supported the
Shia heretics and could therefore be attacked.53
Having annexed the Dulkadir principality that served as a buffer
between the Ottomans and the Mamluks, the sultan’s forces entered
Syria and inflicted a crushing defeat on the main Mamluk army at Marc
D^abik (Marj D^abiq) north of Aleppo on August 24, 1516, killing the
Mamluk sultan, Qansu al-Ghawri, on the battlefield.54 The cities of
Aleppo, Damascus, and Jerusalem soon surrendered to the Ottoman
sultan. As in the campaign against the Safavids, the Ottoman cannon
and muskets proved to be the most important factors in the Ottoman
victory over the Mamluks.55 Despite the Mamluks’ best effort to reor-
ganize their forces under Tuman Bey, who had proclaimed himself the
new sultan, Selim arrived at the gates of Cairo by January 1517, having
defeated the remaining Mamluk forces at Raydaniyya.56 Tuman Bey
tried to organize a guerrilla force, but he was captured and executed
by the Ottomans, who established themselves as the new masters of
the Arab world. With the defeat of the Mamluks, Egypt, Syria, and
Hijaz (western Arabia) were incorporated into the Ottoman state, and
the sultan received the title of ‘‘Protector of the Two Holy Cities’’
(Mecca and Medina) from Sharif of Mecca.57 By the time Selim died in
September 1520, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents, ruling
vast possessions in Europe, Asia, and Africa and a population of
roughly fifteen million.58
Upon the death of Selim, Prince S€uleyman, who had been groomed
to succeed, ascended the throne at the age of twenty-six. The reign of
S€uleyman (1520–1566) marked the zenith of Ottoman power and pros-
perity. From the beginning of his rule, the Ottoman war machine was
focused on implementing an ambitious and multi-pronged strategy that
would establish the Ottoman state as the most powerful empire in the
world. The new sultan was determined to conquer Hungary, through
which the Ottomans could establish a bridgehead to central Europe and
Zenith of Ottoman Power
exert enormous pressure on the Habsburgs. In his attempt to pressure
and isolate the Habsburgs, S€ uleyman was greatly assisted by the king of
France, Francis I (1515–1547), who was locked in an intense rivalry
with the Habsburg emperor, Charles V (1519–1556). The Ottoman
expansion also benefited from the rise of the Reformation among Ger-
man princes, who had lent their support to Martin Luther, refusing to
join another anti-Ottoman Christian crusade that could only benefit
Catholic powers and the Pope.59 The Ottomans attempted to encourage
division and internal strife among European states, and it is not surpris-
ing, therefore, that they championed the cause of Calvinism throughout
Europe, particularly in Hungary.60
The Catholic powers of Europe, particularly the Habsburgs, Vene-
tians, Spaniards, and Portuguese, countered Ottoman growing power
and influence in Europe by establishing close diplomatic, military, and
commercial ties with Safavid Iran, the principal nemesis of the Otto-
man state in the east. To neutralize the threat from Iran, the new sultan
intended to build on his father’s victories and remove Safavid power
and influence from Iraq, Azerbaijan, and the south Caucasus region.
With encouragement and support from the sultan, the Sunni Uzbeks
in Central Asia waged repeated attacks against Safavid territory in
Transoxiana and Khorasan, including the northern regions of modern
day Afghanistan. The defeat of Shah Ismail and his army in 1514 had
boosted Ottoman confidence and intimidated the Safavids. Indeed,
until the rise of Shah Abbas in 1587, the Safavids turned their attention
toward Afghanistan and Central Asia to check Uzbek power and carve
an empire in the east. However, as long as the Safavids remained in
control of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and southern Iraq, the power
and security of the Ottoman Empire could be challenged and under-
mined by Iranian intervention and meddling on the eastern borders of
the empire. The conquest of southern Iraq, particularly the cities of
Baghdad and Basra, would allow the Ottomans to reach the Persian
Gulf, where S€ uleyman planned to build a naval force that would coun-
ter the Portuguese navy and establish Ottoman hegemony in the Indian
Ocean. Finally, the new sultan was determined to weaken the enor-
mous power and influence of Venice and Genoa by building a formida-
ble Ottoman navy, which could dominate the trade and commerce of
the Mediterranean.
uleyman began his reign by planning an invasion of Belgrade,
which controlled the road to the southern plains of Hungary. The Otto-
mans were determined to take advantage of the opportunities that the
internally divided Hungarian state offered. They were also fully aware
that the developing conflict between France and the Habsburgs would
allow them to play an increasingly crucial role in European politics.
In forming an alliance with France, S€ uleyman increased the pressure
on the Habsburgs, forcing them to retreat from Hungary. The Ottoman
forces under the leadership of their sultan attacked and captured Bel-
grade on August 29, 1521.61 Before pushing farther north, S€ uleyman
turned his attention to the island of Rhodes, where he defeated the
Knights Hospitallers of St. John and forced them to withdraw after a
prolonged siege on January 21, 1522.62 By 1525, the rivalry between
the Habsburg Charles V and Francis I of France had culminated in open
warfare between the two European monarchs. Only six years before,
when they were candidates for the crown of the Holy Roman Empire,
both had ‘‘promised to mobilize all the forces of Europe against the
Ottomans.’’63 When Charles was elected as the emperor in 1521, how-
ever, the two Christian monarchs split the Catholic world into two war-
ring factions and provided S€ uleyman with a golden opportunity to
attack and occupy Belgrade. The conflict between the Holy Roman Em-
peror and France reached a new height when Francis was captured and
imprisoned in 1525, forcing the French to seek Ottoman assistance and
support. Exploiting the opportunity that the conflict between France
and the Holy Roman Emperor provided, S€ uleyman struck, pushing his
army into a divided Hungary fighting a civil war over the role of the
Habsburgs. Lacking unity and cohesion, the Hungarian army under the
leadership of King Louis suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of
the Ottomans at the Battle of Mohacs on August 29, 1526.64 The death
of King Louis and thousands of his men on the battlefield sealed the
fate of the Hungarian state. The road was now open to Buda, which was
sacked by S€ uleyman’s army on September 10. When the Ottoman army
returned in 1529, S€ uleyman focused his campaign on recapturing Buda
and conquering Vienna. The long journey and heavy rain which made
the roads impassable and the transportation of men and artillery impos-
sible, and the arrival of winter which deprived the horses of forage and
rendered the Ottoman cavalry useless, forced S€ uleyman to lift the siege
on the Habsburg capital after three weeks on October 16.65
S€uleyman turned his attention to establishing Ottoman suprem-
acy on the Mediterranean Sea, where Venice and Genoa had histori-
cally dominated. Having appointed the famed Hayreddin Paşa, also
known as Barbarossa or Barbaros, as the grand admiral of Ottoman na-
val forces (Kapudan-i dery^ a), S€
uleyman expanded Ottoman domains
into North Africa, capturing Tunis in August 1533 and threatening the
Venetian islands of the Ionian Sea.66 The Ottomans were sending a sig-
nal to Venice, Genoa, Spain, and Portugal that their empire was no lon-
ger just a land power but now also a giant sea power with which they
would have to contend. In 1537, the Ottoman fleet attacked Venetian
positions, laying siege to Corfu and threatening Italy. The growing
Zenith of Ottoman Power
supremacy of the Ottoman navy on the Aegean and the Mediterranean
forced Venice to sue for peace in October 1540.
In late summer 1533, the Ottoman forces invaded Iran. The death
of the charismatic Shah Ismail at the age of thirty-seven in 1524 had
significantly weakened the power of the Iranian throne. It brought to
power his ten-year-old son, Tahmasp, who did not enjoy the prestige
and authority of his father and who was used as a pawn in the interne-
cine conflicts between rival Kizilbaş chiefs and commanders. Aware
that S€uleyman intended to invade his empire, Tahmasp and his advi-
sors had dispatched several embassies to European courts, seeking an
alliance against the Ottoman Empire. Habsburg and Venetian emissa-
ries arrived at the court of Shah Tahmasp to plan a joint attack on
Ottoman territory from the east and the west. Learning from their mis-
takes at Ch^aldiran, the Safavids also adopted a new strategy, which
emphasized avoiding open warfare and adopting a scorched earth pol-
icy. Thus, as the Ottoman forces under the personal command of
S€uleyman invaded their territory in 1534, the Safavid troops began to
retreat, burning and destroying towns and villages and denying food,
harvest, and shelter to the Sunni invaders. The Safavids were con-
vinced that with the arrival of the harsh Iranian winter and increasing
shortages of food and supplies, the Ottoman forces would withdraw
while the shah’s army would follow the invaders in their retreat and
recover the lost territory in the process. Despite these calculations,
S€uleyman’s first campaign against the Safavid state proved to be a great
success, as Ottoman forces captured Mesopotamia and Azerbaijan. The
city of Tabriz fell into Ottoman hands once again in July 1534. To
outdo his father, S€ uleyman pushed his army farther east to Sultaniyya
before he turned west, crossing the Zagros mountain range and arriv-
ing at the gates of Baghdad, which surrendered to the Ottoman forces
after a short siege in November.67
With the fall of Baghdad and the earlier conquest of Egypt, the
Ottoman Empire established itself as the dominant power in the Mid-
dle East, a position it continued to occupy until the end of World War
I in 1918. It was becoming clear to both sides, however, that while the
Safavids could not defeat the superior Ottoman army in a face to face
confrontation, the Ottomans had also failed to destroy the Safavid
monarchy. For the Ottomans, the invasion of Iran was difficult and
costly, forcing them to travel long distances while maintaining exten-
sive supply lines, which were under constant attacks from the Safavid
irregular forces. For the Safavids, the Ottoman invasions and occupa-
tions undermined the prestige and power of the shah among his sub-
jects and resulted in a significant reduction of revenue sent to the
central government.
Despite the difficulties of waging war against Iran, S€ uleyman
decided to invade Safavid territory again in 1548 after Elqas Mirza, a
brother of Shah Tahmasp, fled to Ottoman territory and sought protec-
tion and support from the sultan. Convinced that the internal struggle
over the Iranian throne could be used to expand Ottoman power and
territory, S€uleyman dispatched an army with Elqas Mirza, which took
Tabriz, but once again failed to establish permanent Ottoman rule. The
campaign disintegrated after Elqas Mirza quarreled with his newly found
ally, forcing the Ottomans to withdraw their support for the Iranian pre-
tender. After three long, costly, and exhausting campaigns, the Ottomans
and Safavids signed the peace Treaty of Amasya on May 29, 1555.
Although the Safavids regained some of the territory they had lost to
S€uleyman, the Ottomans retained their control of southern Iraq, includ-
ing the city of Baghdad. For the remaining years of S€ uleyman’s reign,
both the Ottoman Empire and Iran avoided costly military campaigns.
During the reign of S€ uleyman the Magnificent, the Ottoman
Empire reached the height of its political and military power. From Bu-
dapest to Baghdad and from Crimea to Hijaz, the authority and power
of the Ottoman sultan reigned supreme. The might of the empire
under S€ uleyman was best manifested not only in its armies but also in
the Ottoman arts, architecture, prose, and poetry, which achieved a
golden age under the patronage of the sultan. An accomplished artist
and poet, S€ uleyman financed numerous mosques, medresas, aqueducts,
and architectural complexes (see Document 1). Many of these master-
pieces were designed and built by the imperial architect, Sinan (1489–
1588). Among his most well known works are the S€ uleymaniyye
mosque complex in Istanbul and his mosque in Edirne, which remain
masterpieces of Ottoman architecture.68 Under the patronage of the
sultan, Ottoman poetry flourished. The two greatest poets of the era
were Fuzuli and B^aki (Mahmud Abd€ ulb^aki), who composed brilliant
poetry (kasidas) in praise of the sultan. The sultan not only showered
them with royal praises and generous gifts but also bestowed upon
B^aki the title of Sultan ul-Şuar^
a (King of Poets).
Toward the end of his reign, S€ uleyman was called upon to select
his successor. His oldest son, Mustafa was popular among the janissary
corps and their a gas. However, the second son, Selim, was the favorite
of his father as he was the offspring of S€ uleyman’s love affair with
H€urrem Sultan (Roxelana), who enjoyed great influence over her royal
husband. Despite serious reservations, the sultan chose Selim over
Mustafa, who was strangled as his father watched from behind a cur-
tain in the royal harem. Ironically, the decline of the Ottoman state
began during the reign of Selim II, who ascended to the Ottoman
throne in 1566.
Zenith of Ottoman Power

1. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 69.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Sina Akşin, ‘‘The Conquest of Istanbul’’ in Essays in Ottoman-Turkish
Political History (Istanbul: Isis Press, 2000), 162. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 48.
7. Tursun Beg, Mehmed the Conqueror, 33.
8. Ibid., 32.
9. Ibid., 33–4.
10. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 26.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:58–9.
14. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 129.
15. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:60.
16. Ibid., 1:59. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 70.
17. Tursun Beg, Mehmed the Conqueror, 43–4.
18. Ibid., 50–52.
19. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 32.
20. Ibid.
21. Abu Bakr-i Tehrani, Kitab-i Diyar Bakriyya (Ak Koyunlular Tarihi),
ed. Faruk Sumer (Ankara: 1964), 421–27 and 457–464. H.R. Roemer, ‘‘The
urkmen Dynasties’’ in The Cambridge History of Iran, eds. Peter Jackson
and Laurence Lockhart (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986),
22. Asnad va Mukatabat-i Tarikhi-yi Iran, ed. Abdul Hossein Navai,
(Tehran: 1992), 576–77.
23. See Shai Har-El, Struggle for Domination in the Middle East: The
Ottoman-Mamluk War (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995), 80–1, 86–9.
24. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:65. Halil Inalcik, ‘‘The Rise
of the Ottoman Empire’’ in The Cambridge History of Islam, eds. P.M. Holt,
Ann K.S. Lambton, Bernard Lewis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1970), 1:299.
25. Roemer, ‘‘The T€ urkmen Dynasties,’’ 6:176. Shaw, History of the
Ottoman Empire, 1:66.
26. Tehrani, Kitab-i Diyar Bakriyya, 554.
27. Roemer, ‘‘The T€ urkmen Dynasties,’’ 6:179.
28. Tehrani, Kitab-i Diyar Bakriyya, 570–584.
29. Ibid., 583.
30. Halil Inalcik and Gunsel Renda, eds., Ottoman Civilization (Istan-
bul: Republic of Turkey, 2003), 1:87.
31. Tursun Beg, Mehmed the Conqueror, 55–6.
32. Inalcik and Renda, Ottoman Civilization, 1:87.
33. Ibid.
34. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:70.
35. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 30.
36. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty, 7.
37. Har-El, Struggle for Domination in the Middle East, 105.
38. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 83.
39. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:71.
40. Ibid., 1:73.
41. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 30–1.
42. Ibid., 30.
43. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 78.
44. Halil Inalcik, ‘‘A Case Study in Renaissance Diplomacy: The
Agreement between Innocent VIII and Bayezid II regarding Djem Sultan’’ in
The Middle East and the Balkans under the Ottoman Empire: Essays on Econ-
omy and Society (Bloomington: Indiana University Turkish Studies, 1993),
45. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:71.
46. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 31.
47. Ibid.
48. Ibid., 30.
49. Ibid.
50. Ibid.
51. H.R. Roemer, ‘‘The Safavid Period’’ in The Cambridge History of Iran,
6:220. See also V. J. Parry, ‘‘The Reign of Bayezid II and Selim I, 1481–1520’’
in A History of the Ottoman Empire to 1730, ed. M.A. Cook (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 1976), 65.
52. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 106.
53. Ibid., 109.
54. Imber, The Ottoman Empire, 47. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 85.
Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:84.
55. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 109.
56. Ibid., 110.
57. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty, 115.
58. Suraiya Faroqhi, The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It
(New York: I.B. Tauris, 2004), 100.
59. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 34.
60. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 37.
61. See Clot, Suleiman the Magnificent, 36–39.
62. Ibid., 39–44.
63. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, 35.
64. See Clot, Suleiman the Magnificent, 56–61.
65. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 124.
Zenith of Ottoman Power
66. See Haji Khalife, History of the Maritime Wars of the Turks, trans.
James Mitchell (London: J. Murray, 1831), 28–80. Ernie Bradford, The Sul-
tan’s Admiral: The Life of Barbarossa (London: Harcourt Brace and World,
67. See Clot, Suleiman the Magnificent, 89–94.
68. See Godfrey Goodwin, Sinan: Ottoman Architecture and its Values
Today (London: Saqi Books, 1993).
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Historians of the Ottoman Empire have generally argued that the decline
of Ottoman power began during the reign of Selim II, who succeeded
his father, S€
uleyman the Magnificent, in September 1566. Known for his
love of women and wine, the new sultan was called Sarhoş (Drunkard)
in Turkish and Selim the Sot in Europe.1 Selim spent much of his time
in the Dar u€s-Saade (the House of Felicity) located in the inner section
of the Topkapi Palace, leaving the affairs of state to his grand vezir,
Sokollu Mehmed Paşa, who had served S€ uleyman and was married to
Selim’s daughter, Esmahan. The grand vezir’s power and influence grew
as the sultan became increasingly more detached from the everyday
affairs of state.2 Selim’s favorite wife, Nur Banu Sultan, reputed to be of
Jewish origin and mother of the future sultan, Murad III, also played a
prominent role in the palace’s decision-making. The so-called ‘‘reign of
women’’ had begun.3
Regardless, the policy of expanding the empire and consolidating
the territorial gains of previous sultans continued unabated. In 1568,
the armies of the sultan invaded Yemen after a revolt erupted, captur-
ing Aden and Sana a year later, establishing their control over the trade
and commerce of the Red Sea.4 To the extreme north, the Ottomans
embarked on an ambitious campaign to capture the key strategic town
of Astrakhan on the Caspian, which would allow the sultan to block
a Russian advance toward the Caucasus, threaten the Iranian-held
regions of south Caucasus and Azerbaijan, establish a direct link with
the Uzbeks (the principal ally of the Ottomans in Central Asia), and
revive the old caravan routes connecting the east and the west by
diverting them from the Iranian and Russian territory and bringing
them under the sultan’s direct control.5 Despite the best efforts of
Sokullu Mehmed, the project did not materialize and the Ottomans
were forced to rely on their allies, the Crimean Tatars, to act as a buffer
against Russian ambitions on the northern coast of the Black Sea.
The Ottomans were far more successful in their campaign to cap-
ture the island of Cyprus, which was considered a safe haven for
pirates who raided Ottoman ships in the eastern Mediterranean.6 In
September 1570, the Ottomans captured Nicosia and went on to con-
quer Famagusta in August 1571. The fall of Cyprus convinced the
Christian powers of Europe to unify their forces in an attempt to regain
the island. Under the leadership of Don Juan of Austria, the naval
forces of the newly formed Holy League attacked and trapped the Otto-
man fleet that had recently returned from the conquest of Cyprus and
was anchored at Lepanto on the Greek coast. The Christian fleet
destroyed most of the Ottoman ships, killing a large number of sai-
lors.7 The victory at Lepanto on October 7, 1571 was hailed through-
out Europe as the beginning of the end of Ottoman domination in the
eastern Mediterranean and was a great boost for European morale. A
European Christian force had finally achieved an impressive victory
against the hated Turks. To the disappointment of Europe, however,
the Ottomans bounced back from the humiliation at Lepanto within a
short time. The Ottoman navy was rebuilt within a year and immedi-
ately began to challenge the Holy League and its fleet in the waters of
the eastern Mediterranean. In 1573, Venice, which constituted the
most important naval power within the Holy League, sued for a sepa-
rate peace with the sultan. In August 1574, the reorganized Ottoman
fleet attacked and occupied Tunis, establishing a formidable territorial
base for the Ottoman Empire in North Africa.8
Upon the death of Selim II, his oldest son, Murad III (1574–
1595) ascended to the Ottoman throne and immediately ordered the
execution of his five brothers.9 The new sultan possessed a voracious
sexual appetite. During his twenty-one-year reign, the sultan enjoyed
the company of numerous concubines who gave birth to nearly 102
sons and ‘‘uncounted’’ daughters.10 The presence of so many children
and their mothers intensified harem jealousies, rivalries, and intrigues.
The most powerful faction, led by the mother of the sultan, Nur Banu
Sultan, was opposed by a second faction, led by the wife of the sultan,
Safiye Sultan. The first faction was allied to the powerful Sokullu
Mehmed and his wife Esmahan Sultan, the daughter of Selim II.
Sokullu Mehmed had served Selim II as grand vezir and continued to
hold his position under the new sultan until his assassination in 1579.
The second faction was closely allied with the pro-Venetian ministers
and officials who despised Sokullu Mehmed and his enormous influ-
ence. Aside from personal jealousies and rivalries, one of the most
important reasons for the conflict between the two factions was their
approach to foreign policy. Sokullu Mehmed seems to have favored a
more peaceful and diplomatic approach in resolving the political, eco-
nomic, and territorial disputes between the Ottoman Empire and its
powerful neighbors to the east and the west, whereas his opponents
Decline of the Empire
advocated a more aggressive and confrontational attitude, which aimed
at attacking and intimidating the Safavid dynasty in Iran and the
Habsburgs in central Europe.
Sokullu Mehmed was triumphant in the early years of Murad’s reign,
renewing peace treaties with Venice (1575), the Habsburgs (1577), and
Poland (1577). Farther west in North Africa, the Ottomans took advant-
age of internal rivalries in Morocco to attack and occupy the country in
1578. The establishment of Ottoman rule in Morocco was aimed at coun-
tering Spanish and Portuguese designs on the region and served as a
warning that the sultan controlled a territorial base from which he could
launch an attack on Spain. To counter the Spanish, Venetian, and French
monopoly over the commerce and trade of the Mediterranean Sea, the
Ottomans established a close relationship with England, negotiating a
trade agreement in 1580, and offering commercial privileges that until
then had been reserved for Venice and France.11 English traders and mer-
chants were granted the right to conduct business in the Ottoman terri-
tory without intervention from Ottoman authorities.12 As the political
and economic power of the empire declined and European states became
increasingly more aggressive and expansionist in their policies, these
capitulations were used as legal justification for intervention in the inter-
nal affairs of the Ottoman state.
Despite his successes in international diplomacy, Sokullu Mehmed
failed to silence those factions within the royal harem who opposed him
and encouraged the sultan to adopt a more aggressive policy toward
Iran. In the end, the war party outmaneuvered Sokullu Mehmed. With
the death of Shah Tahmasp in 1576 and the accession of Ismail II to the
Iranian throne, the Safavid state entered a period of decline and interne-
cine conflict within the ruling family.13 Recognizing the weakness and
vulnerability of the Safavid state, the war party began to advocate a mas-
sive invasion of Iran with the aim of regaining the territory that had
been conquered during the reign of S€ uleyman the Magnificent. Aside
from allowing Ottomans to amass booty and increase the revenue of the
central government, the conquest of Azerbaijan and the Caucasus would
enable the Ottoman Empire to establish direct political, military, and
commercial contact with the Uzbeks, who viewed the Shia Safavids as
the principal threat to their domination of Central Asia.
The war party was supported by the ulema who viewed the Shia
Safavids as heretics deserving of death and destruction. The military
campaign in the east, which began in 1578, was also promoted by the
pro-Venetian faction inside the sultan’s harem, who preferred wars
against Iran to military actions against Venice in the west. As in the
past, the Ottoman army was successful at first. The Iranian forces with-
drew into the interior of their territory while the Georgian princes who
had accepted the suzerainty of the shah defected to the Ottoman camp.
Georgia, Armenia, Karabagh, Daghistan, and Shirvan fell to the sultan’s
troops. The initial victories against the Safavids in the Caucasus sealed
the fate of the grand vezir Sokullu Mehmed, who had opposed another
futile and costly campaign in the east. In October 1579, the grand vezir
was assassinated by an agent of the sultan.14
Meanwhile, the war against the Safavids continued for more than a
decade. With support from the Uzbeks who attacked the Iranian prov-
ince of Khorasan from the northeast, the Ottomans forced the new Safa-
vid monarch Shah Abbas to sue for peace in March 1590. The victory
over the Safavids and the conquest of the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, and
Kurdistan were celebrated in Istanbul. The size of the empire had
expanded, and booty and taxes from the newly conquered territories
had revived the treasury. The conquests in the east were, however, short
lived. The defeats at the hands of the Ottomans awakened the Iranians
to the need for reform and reorganization of their army. For the next
decade, Shah Abbas worked tirelessly to reorganize the Safavid forces
with the support and assistance of European states. When the two Mus-
lim powers clashed thirteen years later, the Ottomans were shocked by
the mobility and efficiency of the new Iranian army, which would defeat
them repeatedly and allow Iran to regain the provinces it had lost.
The conclusion of military campaigns against Iran freed the Otto-
man armies to confront the looming threat posed by the Habsburgs. As
long as the Ottomans were fighting the Safavids, the sultan and his
advisers had maintained peace with the Habsburg Empire. But Otto-
man raiders carried out attacks into Habsburg territory while Habs-
burgs attacked Ottoman possessions in Bosnia and Transylvania. The
ferocity of Ottoman raids forced the Habsburg emperor to declare war
on the sultan in 1592. The Habsburg army invaded Ottoman territory
and scored an impressive victory over the sultan’s forces at Sissek
(Sisak) on June 20, 1593.15 The war with the Habsburgs lasted for
nearly thirteen years and brought the Pope and Venice into an alliance
with the emperor. The most important ally of the Habsburgs, however,
proved to be Prince Michael of Wallachia, who revolted in protest over
the excessive taxation by the sultan in 1594.16 As the bread basket of
the empire, Wallachia and Moldavia supplied Istanbul with meat and
grain and commanded the important commercial routes of the Black
Sea and the Danube, which were used by the Ottomans to transport
their armies against the Habsburgs.17
With the death of Murad III, his son Mehmed III (1595–1603)
ascended the Ottoman throne.18 Once again the new sultan unleashed
a reign of terror against his own family, ordering the strangulation of
his nineteen brothers and twenty sisters, ‘‘all innocent and guiltless.’’19
Decline of the Empire
The sultan’s mother, Safiye Sultan, continued to exercise enormous
power and influence while the grand vezir conducted the ongoing
military campaigns against the Habsburgs and the insurgency in
Wallachia.20 The Ottoman forces managed to invade Wallachia and cap-
ture Bucharest. However, the Wallachian counter attacks, combined with
a very harsh winter, forced the Ottoman army to retreat, while neighbor-
ing Moldavia joined the rebellion. With Wallachia and Moldavia in tur-
moil and chaos, the sultan appealed to his ally, the Crimean khan, to
attack the two Principalities from the north. The Ottoman decision to
involve Crimean Tatars rang alarm bells in Poland, which responded by
sending its armies into the Principalities to stop the Tatars.
The failure of the campaigns in the Balkans finally forced the sul-
tan to leave the palace and assume the leadership of the Ottoman
forces in the field.21 On October 26, 1596, an exhausted Ottoman army
defeated the Habsburgs at Mezo†keresztes (Haç Ova).22 Despite the vic-
tory, however, the Ottomans failed to establish and maintain defensible
positions. Thus, by 1598, Michael of Wallachia attacked Nicopolis and
captured Moldovia and Transylvania a year later. The expansion of
Habsburg power and influence caused anxiety not only in Istanbul but
also among the Poles, who joined the Ottomans in a campaign to
restore the suzerainty of the sultan over the two rebellious Principal-
ities. Transylvania was to be governed by Stefan Bocskai, who had
served as an advisor to the king of Poland.23 Order had finally been
restored, but it had come at a high price. The war against the Habs-
burgs and Wallachia had exposed the weaknesses of the Ottoman army
and command structure. Without the support and participation of the
Poles and Crimean Tatars, the sultan could not have maintained the
territorial integrity of his empire.
The inability of the Ottoman army to sustain its victories against
the Habsburgs was partially caused by a series of rebellions known as
the cel^ali revolts, which shook the Ottoman Empire to its founda-
tion.24 The origins of the revolts have been traced back to the decision
by the Ottoman grand vezir, C^agalaz^ade Sinan Paşa, to restore disci-
pline among his troops after the victory over the Habsburgs at Haç
Ova. The Ottoman commander had announced that all troops not
present in front of his tent after the end of the battle would be viewed
as deserters, with the punishment being execution and the confiscation
of the deserter’s property by the central government.25 Angry at the
government they had served faithfully on the battlefields of Europe,
thousands of armed men fled to Anatolia. Their arrival fueled the eco-
nomic grievances and resentments that had been building for decades.
Mehmed III died of a sudden stroke and was replaced by his son
Ahmed I (1603–1617), who was at the time only thirteen years old.26
The young sultan, who ruled under the influence of his mother Han-
dan and the eunuch Derviş Mehmed Aga, was faced with the continu-
ing war against the Habsburgs, the rise of Shah Abbas in Iran, and the
continuation of the cel^ali revolts in Anatolia. The cel^
ali revolts, com-
bined with a new wave of attacks from Safavid Iran, had convinced the
Ottoman Empire of the need to conclude a peace treaty with the Habs-
burgs so that the main army could focus its men and resources on
suppressing the rebels in Anatolia and confront the challenge posed
by the charismatic Iranian monarch. The prospect of a peace treaty
improved in September 1604 when Ottoman forces captured Pest. By
1605, the Habsburgs had evacuated Transylvania, allowing Bocskai to
emerge as its unchallenged prince. The new ruler and the prince of
Wallachia agreed that the Principalities would accept the suzerainty
of the sultan in Istanbul. The Ottomans signed the peace Treaty of
Zsitvatorok (Zsitva-Torok) on November 11, 1606.27 The Ottoman ter-
ritories north of the Danube remained intact, but the sultan agreed to
treat the Habsburg emperor as an equal and relinquish the claim that
he was required to pay tribute.28 With the cessation of hostilities in
Europe, the Ottoman state shifted its focus eastward, where a deter-
mined Iranian ruler was wreaking havoc and challenging Ottoman rule
over the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, and Kurdistan.
The Iranian monarch, Shah Abbas, had concluded that the Kizilbaş
cavalry, the backbone of his army, was not adequately armed, trained,
and organized to face the challenges posed by the more advanced Otto-
man army. Worse, they owed their loyalty to their tribal chiefs rather
than to their royal master, the shah. Thus, he signed a peace treaty with
the Ottomans in 1590, ceding vast territories in Azerbaijan and the Cau-
casus to the sultan. The treaty bought the young shah badly needed time
and allowed him to reorganize the Safavid army with the help of Euro-
pean governments and weaponry. In creating his new lean and mean
war machine, Shah Abbas reduced the number of tribal cavalry and cre-
ated a ten thousand–man cavalry and twelve thousand–man infantry
paid and trained by the royal treasury. 29
This new infantry corps of tofangchis (riflemen) was modeled af-
ter the Ottoman janissaries, and its members were recruited primarily
from young Georgian ghul^ ams (slaves) who had converted to Islam.30
Armed with cannon and rifles, the new army was trained by Europeans
who were recruited and paid by the Safavid monarch.31 By 1597, Shah
Abbas was ready to strike. Having first defeated the Uzbeks in the east,
the Safavid monarch turned his attention to the west in 1603, moving
his forces against the Ottomans at a blazing speed, catching Ottoman
garrisons in the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia by surprise and captur-
ing the city of Tabriz in September and Nakhchivan in October
Decline of the Empire
1603. He then pushed into eastern Anatolia and southern Caucasus
in 1604, laying siege to Erivan and Kars, which surrendered in June.33
Using Armenia as his base, Shah Abbas invaded and occupied the
entire eastern Caucasus as far north as Shirvan.34
It was now clear to the Ottoman sultan and his advisors that the
Safavids had abandoned their defensive posture and after a century of
defeat were determined to openly challenge Ottoman hegemony and
power. The crisis caused by the campaigns of Shah Abbas coincided
with the death of Mehmed III and the accession of Ahmed I.35 The
new Ottoman sultan mobilized a large force of one hundred thousand
against an Iranian force of sixty-two thousand. When the two armies
clashed near Lake Urumiyya (present day northwestern Iran) on Sep-
tember 9, 1605, however, it was the Iranians who scored an impressive
victory against the larger Ottoman force.36 Some twenty thousand
Ottoman fighters lost their lives on the battlefield. The victory liber-
ated Iran and the Safavid monarchy from ‘‘the stigma of inferiority’’ to
the Ottomans.37 In addition to Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, the Safa-
vids captured Kurdistan as far west as Diyarbakir in southeastern Ana-
tolia. The Safavids also added northern Iraq, including the city of
Mosul, as well as southern Iraq and the cities of Baghdad, Najaf, and
Karbala, to their new territorial conquests. The victory over the Sunni
Turks and the conquest of important Shia religious centers in southern
Iraq enhanced the prestige and popularity of the Safavid monarch
among his people, who had been indoctrinated to view the Ottoman
state as their existential enemy. The defeat undermined the Ottoman
rule in Anatolia. Kurdish and Turcoman tribal chiefs defected, and a
new series of cel^ ali revolts erupted, particularly in Syria where the
Kurds staged an uprising against the Ottoman state.38
The Ottomans could not allow the Shia heretics from Iran to
undermine the authority of the sultan in the eyes of his Arab and Kurd-
ish subjects. No other alternative remained for Ahmed but to mobilize
a second army that would suppress the cel^ ali revolts and crush Shah
Abbas and his army. The Ottoman commander assigned to this difficult
mission was Kuyucu Murad Paşa, who swept through Anatolia, captur-
ing and massacring cel^ ali rebels and their sympathizers. By the summer
of 1608, the ruthless and determined Ottoman commander had
crushed the cel^alis. He then moved against the main Safavid army. As
the large Ottoman force moved toward eastern Anatolia, Shah Abbas
ordered his troops to fill water wells, burn the harvest, and force the
evacuation of the local population. As the Safavid army retreated, thou-
sands of villagers, mostly Armenians, were forced out of their homes as
they marched eastward to the interior of Iran. Many were never
allowed to return to their homes. Instead, the shah ordered them to
reside in various provinces of his vast empire. Those who were forced
to settle in the Caspian provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran perished en
masse from malaria. Those who were moved to the new Safavid capital
of Isfahan fared better. The Iranian shah built them a city, named New
Julfa, across from his capital on the banks of the river Z^ayanderud,
where they settled and helped the monarch to implement his policy of
diverting Iranian silk exports from Ottoman routes.
Despite his earlier success, Murad Paşa could not dislodge the
Safavid forces from eastern Anatolia and Azerbaijan. With his death in
1611, the Ottoman offensive came to a sudden halt. Recognizing the
change in the Iranian military capabilities and the determination of the
Safavid shah to hold his newly gained territories, the Ottoman Empire
agreed to a peace treaty with Iran, which was signed in November
1612. According to the new treaty, the sultan accepted the Iranian con-
quest of Azerbaijan and Caucasus while the shah agreed to send the
sultan ‘‘two hundred loads of silk annually’’ and to support the Otto-
man government’s efforts to check Russian incursions into the Cauca-
sus.39 Despite the peace treaty, border skirmishes continued and Shah
Abbas reneged on his promise to send the loads of silk. Instead, he
organized a campaign against Georgia. The sultan responded in 1616
by dispatching an Ottoman force to lay siege to Erivan. The campaign
against Iranian-held Armenia, however, proved to be a disaster. Thou-
sands of Ottoman troops froze to death as they tried to retreat during
the harsh winter of the south Caucasus.
Ahmed died in 1617. Despite the many difficulties and challenges
he had confronted during his fourteen-year reign, the young sultan left
behind a remarkable legacy in his promotion of religion, the arts, and
architecture. It was during his reign that the Sultan Ahmed Mosque
was designed and constructed. Among one of Istanbul’s architectural
wonders, the mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, continues to
dazzle visitors to the magnificent city. An accomplished poet, the sul-
tan also sponsored literary and scholarly works and supported the con-
struction of new schools. The death of Ahmed caused panic and
anxiety within the royal harem, where a struggle ensued over the suc-
cession. A faction led by Ahmed’s concubine, Mahpeyker, also known
as K€osem Sultan, triumphed, and the brother of Ahmed ascended the
throne as Mustafa I. The new sultan had been born and raised in the
royal harem surrounded by women and eunuchs. Weak, incompetent,
and wholly dependent on K€ osem Sultan, Mustafa remained a pawn in
the internecine harem intrigues. In February 1618, he was removed
from the throne and Osman II was installed as the new sultan.
Although he killed his blood brother Mehmed, Osman did not order
the assassination of his half brothers, Murad and Ibrahim, and their
Decline of the Empire
mother, K€ osem Sultan. During his short reign from 1618 to 1622, the
Ottomans sent a large force to capture the city of Tabriz, the capital of
Iranian Azerbaijan. This army, however, suffered severe losses in Sep-
tember 1618 at Pol-e Shekasteh, but as it continued to push toward the
interior of Iran, the shah agreed to renew the peace treaty of 1612. The
Safavids received all the Iranian territory lost to Selim I and a reduction
of the amount of silk to be sent to the sultan from two hundred loads of
silk to one hundred.40 Osman also led his army against the Poles, who
had allied themselves with the Habsburgs and were intervening in the
Danubian Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. The Ottomans won
a victory against the Poles in September 1620 with support from Cri-
mean Tatars. A year later, the Ottoman conquest of the fortress of Khotin
forced Poland to sue for peace and promise not to intervene in the
Principalities and to respect the sultan’s authority over them.
Despite the quick resolution of the conflict with Poland, the sul-
tan’s zeal for reforms triggered a fatal confrontation with the janissary
and sip^ ahi corps recruited through the devşirme. Critical of their efforts
in the war against the Poles, the sultan had hinted at replacing the
devşirme-based army with newly trained units from Anatolia. He also
tried to centralize power by curbing the influence of şeyh€ ulisl^
am and
forbidding him from appointing the members of the ulema.41 Thus, the
sultan created a unified opposition, which included the janissaries, the
sip^ahis, the ulema, and the faction within the royal harem led by K€ osem
Sultan who was anxious to secure the throne for her sons. The pretext
for the revolt against the sultan was provided when Osman announced
his intention to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Troops opposed to the
idea of a new army gathered at the Sultan Ahmed Mosque where they
were joined by the members of ulema. With the blessing of the
am, who issued a fetva against corrupt officials surrounding
the sultan, the rebellious troops rampaged through the streets of
the capital killing any official they encountered. As the sultan vacil-
lated between resisting and giving in to their demands, the rebels
stormed the palace and eliminated his immediate advisors. Osman was
deposed and murdered a short time later on May 20, 1622.42 In place
of the reform-minded Osman, the weak and incompetent Mustafa I
was restored to the throne with support from the wily K€ osem Sultan,
the mother of Princes Murad and Ibrahim.
The assassination of Osman and the restoration of Mustafa pro-
voked protests and violence both in Istanbul and Anatolia. K€ osem Sul-
tan, who had reemerged as the power behind the throne, tried to
maintain order by installing her ally, the Albanian Mere H€ useyin Paşa,
as the grand vezir. The incompetence and corruption of the new grand
vezir only added fuel to an already volatile situation. Janissaries and
ahis who did not have any confidence in the new administration
took over the capital, looting and plundering people’s homes. In
response to the chaotic situation, the governor of Erzurum, Abaza
Mehmed Paşa, mobilized a large army and called for the sultan to be
replaced by Prince Murad. Meanwhile, the situation in the capital con-
tinued to deteriorate, with the ulema, the janissaries, and the sip^ahis
joining the Anatolian rebels and demanding the removal of the grand
vezir. Under intense pressure, the grand vezir stepped down in late Au-
gust 1623. With many provinces in revolt and most governors refusing
to send their taxes to the central treasury, there was no other alterna-
tive but for a new sultan to ascend to the Ottoman throne. On Septem-
ber 10, 1623, Mustafa was deposed and Prince Murad declared the
new sultan.

1. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:175–6.
2. John Freely, Istanbul the Imperial City (London: Penguin Books,
1998), 206.
3. Ibid., 206–7.
4. Imber, The Ottoman Empire, 61–2.
5. Ibid.
6. V.J. Parry, ‘‘The Successors to Sulaiman’’ in A History of the
Ottoman Empire to 1730, 108–10.
7. Ibid., 109.
8. Ibid., 110.
9. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:179. Imber, The Ottoman
Empire, 109.
10. Mustafa Naima (Mustafa Naim), Annals of the Turkish Empire from
1591 to 1659 of the Christian Era, trans. Charles Fraser (1832: reprint, New
York: Arno Press, 1973), 41. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:179.
Shaw states that Murad had one hundred thirty sons.
11. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:181–2.
12. Ibid., 1:182.
13. See Molla Jalal ud-Din Monnajem, Tarikh-i Abbasi ya Rouznamehy-i
Molla Jalal (Tehran: 1988), 31–9.
14. Imber, The Ottoman Empire, 63. Shaw, History of the Ottoman
Empire, 1:182.
15. Naima, Annals of the Turkish Empire, 14. Shaw, History of the Ottoman
Empire, 1:184.
16. Ibid., 37–8. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:184–5.
17. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:184.
18. See Naima, Annals of the Turkish Empire, 39–41.
Decline of the Empire
19. Ibid., 41. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:184. Imber, The
Ottoman Empire, 109.
20. Ibid., 48–51, 53–6.
21. Ibid., 71–2. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:185.
22. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 158.
23. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:185.
24. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 167–71.
25. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:186.
26. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty, 110.
27. Parry, ‘‘The Successors to Sulaiman,’’ 120–1. Sugar, Southeastern
Europe under Ottoman Rule, 196.
28. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:188.
29. Sykes, A History of Persia, 2:175.
30. Ibid.
31. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:188.
32. Eskandar Beg Monshi, History of Shah Abbas the Great (Tarikh-e Alamara-
ye Abbasi) trans. Roger M. Savory (Boulder: Westview Press, 1978), 2:830–3.
Naima, Annals of the Turkish Empire, 243–6, 263–4.
33. Ibid., 833–36. Naima, Annals of the Turkish Empire, 248–9. Sykes,
A History of Persia, 178.
34. See Naima, Annals of the Turkish Empire, 264–65.
35. Ibid., 249–51.
36. Sykes, A History of Persia, 178. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire,
37. Ibid.
38. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:188.
39. Ibid., 1:189. Sykes, A History of Persia, 2:179.
40. Halil Inalcik, ‘‘The Heyday and Decline of the Ottoman Empire’’
in The Cambridge History of Islam, 1:339.
41. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:191.
42. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty, 64.
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With the accession of Murad IV (1623–1640), the Ottoman Empire
entered a new period of rejuvenation. During the first few years of his
reign the young sultan remained under the influence of his mother,
K€osem Sultan, and the officials who had supported his accession to the
throne.1 Once he assumed the reins of the state and established firm
control over the army, the chaos and internal rivalries subsided and the
sultan restored the authority of the central government. But in the
beginning of his reign, the anarchy in the capital and the rebellion of
Abaza Mehmed Paşa in eastern Anatolia encouraged the Safavid
dynasty of Iran to embark on a plan to expand Iranian territory in the
Arab world and regain the provinces it had lost to Selim I and
uleyman the Magnificent. A Safavid army led by Shah Abbas invaded
Iraq, occupied Baghdad on January 12, 1624, and massacred the Sunni
population of the city. Emboldened by their victory, the Iranians
moved north toward southeastern Anatolia.
The brutality displayed by the shah and his troops in Baghdad
caused a popular anti-Shia outcry in Istanbul and a demand for action
against the Iranian heretics who had dared once again to threaten the
territorial and religious integrity of the Ottoman state. Meanwhile, the
Iranian advance toward southeastern Anatolia encouraged Abaza
Mehmed Paşa to raise the flag of rebellion for a second time. The sultan
blamed the fall of Baghdad on the grand vezir Kemankeş Kara Ali Paşa,
who was dismissed and replaced by Çerkes Mehmed. The new
grand vezir assumed command of the Ottoman army and immediately
marched against Abaza Mehmed, who was defeated in September
1624. Despite this, the grand vezir retained Abaza Mehmed as the gov-
ernor of Erzurum and proceeded with the invasion of Iraq. Ottoman
attempts to recapture Baghdad in May 1625 and April 1626, however,
failed. Iranian resistance and the arrival of a Safavid force led by Shah
Abbas forced the Ottoman troops to withdraw. Encouraged by the
Ottoman failure to conquer Iraq, Abaza Mehmed staged a third revolt
in July 1627, which was once again crushed by the Ottomans in Sep-
tember 1628. To the shock of many who expected the sultan to order
his execution, Murad extended a pardon to Abaza Mehmed and his
men and ordered them to join the Ottoman army.
With the death of the energetic and charismatic Shah Abbas
in 1629, a new monarch ascended the Safavid throne as Shah Safi.
Viewing the death of Abbas as an opportunity, the Ottomans invaded
western Iran and captured the city of Hamedan in June 1630. The pop-
ulation of the ancient city was put to the sword by the order of the
sultan, who then turned toward Baghdad.2 As they began their assault,
the walls of Baghdad were leveled by Ottoman artillery, but the sultan’s
forces sustained heavy casualties when they attempted but failed to
capture the city. The tactical defeat of the Ottoman army at the gates of
Baghdad in November 1630 inspired anti-Ottoman rebellions in the
Arab provinces of the empire, including Egypt, Lebanon, and Yemen.
Worse, in 1631, the dismissal of the grand vezir Husrev Paşa, who had
failed to capture Baghdad, ignited massive rebellion by janissary and
ahi corps in Istanbul, which spread to Anatolia.3 Remarkably, the
sultan then invited the rebellious troops to travel to Istanbul so they
could express their grievances in person.
Armed, angry, and determined, the rebellious army units returned
to disrupt life in the capital and, under pressure from the troops, the
sultan executed a number of high officials, including the grand vezir.4
However, the anarchy did not subside. With the arrival of new army
units from Anatolia, the violence in Istanbul intensified as gangs of
bandits joined the rebellious troops in looting homes, shops, and busi-
nesses. As the anarchy spread, the janissary and sip^ ahi corps fought for
control of Istanbul, even while the sultan used the situation in the cap-
ital and the exhaustion of the warring factions to consolidate his rule.
With support from his advisors, Murad demanded that all army units
sign an oath of loyalty to his person, promising that they would join
forces to suppress the rebellious troops and bandits roaming through
the capital and disturbing the peace in Anatolia. Shortly after peace
and order were restored, the sultan appealed to his people and loyal
troops to eliminate the individuals who were responsible for the recent
disturbances. In the name of eliminating banditry, corruption, and
bribery, thousands of government officials, officers, and individuals
who had played a prominent role in the recent disturbances were
removed from their posts and subsequently executed. When on
Traditional Reforms and Territorial Dismemberment
September 2, 1633, a devastating fire burned thousands of shops in the
capital, the sultan interpreted it as a sign of God’s wrath and demanded
the restoration of the moral order.5 The usage of coffee and tobacco
were prohibited, and coffeehouses that had been used as centers of po-
litical and social mobilization were closed.6 A network of spies and
informants organized by the palace identified the troublemakers who
had criticized the sultan and his high officials. Members of the ulema,
elements of the educated class, as well as prominent poets and writers,
were also punished with death when they failed to toe the line.
Having established control over the government and the army,
Murad began to focus on securing the northern borders of his empire
against the raids carried out by the Cossacks, who were supported by
Poland. In 1634, the Ottomans organized a powerful army, which
failed to neutralize the threat, but they ultimately agreed to a peace
offer from Poland. In exchange for an Ottoman promise to prevent the
Tatars from attacking Polish territory, the Poles agreed to put an end to
Cossack raids. The peace with Poland allowed Murad to return to the
Iranian front. Five years after the failure to capture Baghdad, the Otto-
man forces struck again. This time, the targets were Erivan and Tabriz,
which were occupied without resistance from the Safavid army in Au-
gust and September 1635. But the Ottoman ruler knew full well that
the temporary glory could not be sustained. Following the established
pattern, the Safavids followed the Ottoman main army until it left Ira-
nian territory and then laid siege to the cities captured by the Ottoman
troops, quickly re-taking Erivan in April 1636. But Murad was not to
be denied. In October 1638, Ottoman forces returned to Mesopotamia,
stormed Baghdad, and captured the city despite sustaining heavy casu-
alties in December. These included the grand vezir who ‘‘was killed
leading the assault.’’7 The Safavids sued for peace, and on May 17,
1639 the Ottoman Empire and Iran signed a treaty on the plain of
Zahab near the town of Qasr-i Shirin/Kasr-i Şirin (in present day west-
ern Iran), which ended nearly 140 years of hostility and warfare
between the two Islamic states.8 The Treaty of Qasr-i Shirin established
the Ottoman sultan as the master of Iraq while Safavid Iran maintained
control over Azerbaijan and the southern Caucasus, including Erivan.9
The Safavids promised to end their Shia missionary activities and mili-
tary raids in Ottoman territory. As a symbolic gesture, the Iranians also
agreed to cease the practice of publicly cursing the Sunni caliphs,
which had become widespread among the Shia population in Iran.10
The charismatic Sultan Murad IV died on February 9, 1640, and
with his demise, decline resumed. The new Ottoman monarch, Ibra-
him (1640–1648), who had lived his entire life in the royal harem, did
not have any training or experience in ruling an empire. While the
sultan became increasingly infatuated with the pleasures of the inner
palace, his mother K€ osem Sultan, his tutor, the grand vezir, the chief
eunuch, and the janissary commanders vied for power and influence.
The grand vezir, Kemankeş Kara Mustafa Paşa, who had faithfully
served Murad, continued with governmental reforms, emphasizing
fiscal responsibility, a sustained campaign against corruption, and a
refusal to debase the coinage. He ‘‘sought to reduce in number the jan-
issaries and sip^ahis’’ and ‘‘introduce a more effective and just assess-
ment of taxation.’’11 He also pursued the policy of countering Polish
and Russian expansionism on the northern shores of the Black Sea by
maintaining a close alliance with the Crimean Tatars, who expelled the
Cossacks from Azov in February 1642.12 After signing a peace treaty
with Poland, he also reestablished normal ties with Venice. An intelli-
gent tactician, the grand vezir had recognized that peace and coopera-
tion with Poland and Venice would undermine any effort by the Pope
and the Habsburgs to organize a united Christian front against the
Ottoman Empire. Despite his best efforts, however, Kara Mustafa Paşa
could not silence and neutralize K€ osem Sultan, who used his financial
reforms to instigate a rebellion against the grand vezir.13 When
attempts to dislodge the grand vezir by organizing provincial revolts
failed, K€osem Sultan and other elements within the government used
their close alliance with the sultan’s tutor to secure the dismissal and
execution of Kemankeş Kara Mustafa Paşa in January 1644.14
osem Sultan and her supporters then encouraged the sultan to
embark on a naval campaign against the Venetian-controlled island of
Crete. The war for control of the island dragged on for years, and the
promised booty never materialized. Meanwhile, the personal excesses
of the sultan and his craze for women, silk, and fur, which was
imported for him from Russia, reached such a height that the people
began to call their monarch Deli Ibrahim (Ibrahim the Mad).15 The sul-
tan’s increasing demand for booty and gifts intensified the corruption
that undermined the fabric of the body politic, as each official imitated
his royal master by demanding bribes from his subordinates. Mean-
while, the Venetians blockaded the Dardanelles, causing panic in the
capital. By August 1648, the situation had become intolerable. The
ulema, the janissaries, and the sip^ ahis united and stormed the palace.
After a series of negotiations, the rebels gained the support of the sul-
tan’s mother, K€ osem Sultan.16 Ibrahim was deposed and replaced with
his seven-year-old son, Mehmed IV.17 A few days later, on August 18
the deposed sultan was executed in accordance with a fetva issued by
the şeyh€ am.18 The reign of Ibrahim has been viewed as one of the
lowest points in the entire Ottoman history. No other sultan would
ever again assume the same name for himself or his children.19
Traditional Reforms and Territorial Dismemberment
The new sultan, Mehmed IV (1648–1687) was merely a pawn
in the hands of his grandmother, mother, the grand vezir, army
commanders, and harem attendants who surrounded him. Initially the
grand vezir Sofu Mehmed Paşa allied himself with the janissaries who
established their monopoly over the political and commercial life of
the capital. A short time later, however, the grand vezir broke his alli-
ance with the janissaries and began to challenge their growing power
by appealing to the sip^ ahis and even the cel^ alis in Anatolia in an
attempt to rescue the sultan from the clutches of the arrogant a gas. His
strategy for maintaining his control over the sip^ ahi and janissary corps
by playing one against the other failed, however, and he was dismissed
from his post and replaced by Kara Murad Aga (Paşa), the commander
of the janissaries, who emerged as the most powerful man in the gov-
ernment.20 As factionalism within the harem and the army spread into
the provinces, the Venetians lay naval siege to the Dardanelles in
March 1650, throwing the capital once again into a mass panic. The
presence of a powerful foreign fleet, along with a shortage of food,
caused an increase in the price of basic goods in Istanbul, which only
intensified the suffering of the sultan’s subjects.21 The revolt that many
had anticipated finally erupted on August 21, 1651, after ships that
had bypassed the Venetian fleet to supply Ottoman troops in Crete
were attacked and destroyed.22 The popular revolt allowed the mother
of the sultan, Turhan Sultan, to stage a coup with the support of palace
eunuchs. The powerful and meddling K€ osem Sultan was murdered in
September, and her ally the grand vezir was dismissed.23 The young
Sultan Mehmed used the opportunity to purge the janissary a gas, kill-
ing and exiling those commanders who had established their military
rule over the government. With the elimination of K€ osem Sultan,
Turhan Sultan, who was supported by the chief eunuch S€ uleyman Aga,
now emerged as the power behind the throne.24
Unable to break the siege of Dardanelles by the Venetians, how-
ever, this victorious faction faced the possibility of another popular
uprising. Famine, starvation, and rampant inflation had eroded the
confidence of the populace in their government.25 With all hope lost
and the empire poised on the verge of collapse, Turhan Sultan and
S€uleyman Aga invited Tarhoncu Ahmed Paşa, the capable administra-
tor and commander who at the time was serving as the Ottoman gover-
nor of Egypt, to assume the reins of power and rescue the empire from
further disintegration.26 During his short tenure (1652–1653), the new
grand vezir embarked on a series of political and financial reforms.27
He reorganized the imperial treasury, regained the funds that had been
stolen from it by the members of the ruling elite, and clamped down
on bribery and nepotism. He also attempted to reform the system of
tax farming, confiscating many timars and large estates held by highly
placed palace officials. New taxes were also imposed on the high offi-
cials of the state, and an annual budget was prepared and submitted
for the first time prior to the beginning of the fiscal year.28 These meas-
ures significantly increased the revenue of the central government, but
they also alienated the palace and the members of the imperial admin-
istration. The opposition unified to demand Tarhoncu Ahmed Paşa’s
dismissal, for while they had been willing to absorb a cut in their
income, they could not tolerate the loss of prestige and access to
power. Spreading the false rumor that the grand vezir had decided to
overthrow the sultan, the opposition secured his dismissal and execu-
tion in March 1653.29 The ill-fated Tarhoncu Ahmed Paşa was followed
by a series of weak grand vezirs who were subservient to the mother of
the sultan and the chief eunuch, S€ uleyman Aga. For the next three years
the political situation deteriorated as the cel^
ali revolts continued to dis-
rupt rural and urban life in Anatolia. As peasant farmers fled their vil-
lages, agricultural production declined and government revenue
decreased. With roads controlled by the rebels and bandits, food sup-
plies could not reach the capital. The specter of famine and starvation
spread panic among the populace in Istanbul. In June 1656, the Vene-
tian navy once again blockaded the Dardanelles after inflicting a humil-
iating defeat on the Ottoman fleet.30 Under these dire circumstances, in
September, the young sultan Mehmed appointed the elderly reform-
minded Mehmed K€ opr€
ul€u (K€opr€
u Mehmed Paşa) as grand vezir,
thereby ushering in the reign of a family of statesmen who would domi-
nate Ottoman politics for the remainder of the seventeenth century.31
The son of an Albanian father, Mehmed K€ opr€ul€
u had been
recruited through the devşirme.32 He had served many masters and
patrons both within the palace and in various provinces and acquired a
reputation for competence and honesty. Aware of the grave risks that
came with such a high position, he asked the sultan for certain prom-
ises and commitments before he assumed the position of grand vezir.
He knew that the commanders of the janissary corps and the palace
officials regularly interfered with the management of the state. If the
sultan wished to restore power, prosperity, and peace for his subjects
and neutralize the threat posed by the Venetians and their blockade,
it was essential for the new grand vezir to have a free hand.33 He
requested and received a promise from his royal master that all
appointments and dismissals be made by the grand vezir, and that the
sultan refuse to listen to any story accusing his chief minister of malice
and treachery.34 Having secured the support of the sultan, Mehmed
u began a policy of purging present and future opponents and
replacing them with his own clients and proteges. The chief eunuch,
Traditional Reforms and Territorial Dismemberment
the imperial treasurer, the commander of the navy, and the chief mufti,
who had accumulated a great deal of wealth and influence in the court,
were banished.35 With his position secured in Istanbul, K€ opr€ul€
embarked on the expulsion of the Venetians from the Dardanelles,
which was achieved in July 1657.36 Although the grand vezir had
planned to further his victory over the Venetians by an invasion of
Crete, events in Transylvania forced him to focus his attention north-
ward. Prince George Rakoczi (Rakoczy) had established an alliance
with Sweden, Moldavia, and Wallachia to conquer and unify Poland
and Hungary under his own rule. In alliance with the Crimean khan,
the Ottomans invaded from the south while the Tatars attacked from
the east, defeating Rakoczi and replacing him with Akos  Barcsay
(Barkczai). The defeated Prince Rakoczi sought refuge in Habsburg ter-
ritory, where he died in 1660. By 1662, the Ottomans had defeated
Rakoczi’s successor, Janos Kemeny, reestablishing their suzerainty
under the new prince, Mihail Apafi (Apaffy).37
In the autumn of 1658, K€ opr€
ul€u focused his military campaigns
on the rebellion staged by Abaza Hasan Paşa in Anatolia. The condi-
tions that had given rise to the cel^ali revolts were reignited by the ar-
rival of sip^
ahis and janissaries, who were fleeing the regime of the new
grand vezir in Istanbul. Despite efforts to suppress Abaza Hasan, the
revolt gained momentum as an increasing number of officials and troops
who were sent to Anatolia from Istanbul joined the rebels. As the grand
vezir assumed command of the army, he paid his troops their wages in
advance and distributed bribes among the members of the rebel army,
forcing Abaza Hasan and his supporters to retreat eastward toward the
Anatolian heartland. Forced to sue for peace, Abaza Hasan and his imme-
diate followers were invited to a banquet on February 17, 1659 where
they were slaughtered by their host and his armed agents. The rebellion
crushed, the grand vezir sent his agents and troops to Anatolia where
they were ordered to kill every individual, including members of the
ulema, the army, and the professional class, who might be entertaining anti-
government sympathies. According to one source, some 12,000 heads
were sent back to Istanbul.38 Back in Istanbul, the ailing grand vezir,
who had lost his mobility, resigned in favor of his son, K€ opr€ul€uz^ade
Fazil Ahmed Paşa, who rushed from his post as the governor of Damas-
cus to replace his father, who passed away on October 29, 1661.
For the next fifteen years, Fazil Ahmed Paşa would dominate
Ottoman politics. Trained as a member of the ulema, the new grand
vezir shared the ruthlessness of his father. His education and sophisti-
cation, however, allowed him to achieve his objectives through diplo-
macy and negotiations rather than brutality and violence. He also
patronized arts and scholarship. As with his father, Fazil Ahmed
pursued a foreign policy that aimed at checking the Habsburg inter-
vention in Transylvania. After his demand for non-intervention was
rejected by Vienna, the grand vezir led ‘‘an army of 100,000 through
Buda’’ and conquered the fortress of Neuh€ausel (Ujvar) on September
24, 1663.39 In response, a Holy League was organized under the leader-
ship of Pope Alexander VII, allowing the Habsburgs to take the offen-
sive.40 When the Christian army and Ottoman forces clashed near the
village of St. Gotthard on August 1, 1664, the Ottomans were defeated
and lost many more men and equipment than the troops of the Holy
League, which included Habsburg, Spanish, and French units. How-
ever, when the peace treaty was negotiated at Vasvar on August 10, the
Habsburgs agreed to evacuate their troops and Ottoman rule over
Transylvania was once again secured.41
Following the signing of the treaty with the Habsburgs, Fazil
Ahmed led the Ottoman fleet in an invasion of Crete. The Ottoman
blockade of Iraklion (Herakleion) as well as the conflict between the
Venetians and the French allowed the grand vezir to secure the evacua-
tion of the island by the Venetian defenders. The Ottoman–Venetian
peace treaty of September 5, 1669 allowed the Ottomans to establish
their rule over Crete. Fazil Ahmed then led his troops northward
against Poland. After a series of wars with Russia over the control of
Dnieper Cossacks, the Poles had succeeded in establishing a strong
military presence on the northern shores of the Black Sea, posing a
direct threat to Ottoman hegemony. The Cossacks, however, ‘‘revolted
against Poland and made common cause with the Crimean Tatars’’ and
appealed to the sultan for support and assistance.42 Determined to
resist Polish military might, Mehmed IV assumed leadership of the
campaign against Poland, which would span five important years of
his reign. In 1672, the sultan succeeded in establishing Ottoman rule
over the strategic forts of Podole (Podolya). With Sweden threatening
from the north and the Russian specter looming in the east, the Poles
agreed to a tactical peace treaty in 1672. The death of the Polish king,
Casimir, in 1673 and the rise of the charismatic Jan Sobieski, who
invaded the Ukraine, however, broke the peace treaty. Ottoman forces
crossed into Polish territory, defeating the Poles at the battle of
Zurawno on September 27, 1676. Shortly after the end of Polish cam-
paigns, the grand vezir Fazil Ahmed died and was immediately
replaced by his foster-brother, Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa. The new
threat from Sweden forced Poland to agree to a peace treaty with the
sultan, which was signed at Zurawno (Zorawno) on October 27.
Poland ceded Podole and western Ukraine to the Ottoman Empire.43
The conquest of western Ukraine forced the Ottomans to confront the
emerging Russian power. Indeed, the new grand vezir began his tenure
Traditional Reforms and Territorial Dismemberment
with a new military campaign against Russia, which lasted from 1677
to 1681. Alarmed by the recent Ottoman territorial gains, Czar Alexis
gained the support of Cossacks and struck back. Distracted by the
anti-Habsburg uprising in Hungary and the prospect of using it as an
opportunity to invade and conquer the city of Vienna, and having
failed to establish a military foothold along the key region between
Dnieper and Bug, the new grand vezir opted for a quick peace with
Russia, renouncing the Ottoman claim to the Ukraine.44 Signed in Feb-
ruary 1681, the treaty established the Dnieper as the border between
the two states. Kara Mustafa Paşa could now focus exclusively on Hun-
gary, where the leader of the anti-Habsburg revolt, Imre Th€ ok€oly,
sought Ottoman protection and promised to accept the sultan’s suzer-
ainty in return for his support.45 The anti-Habsburg uprising was also
supported by the sultan’s principal ally to the west, the French, who
hoped to ease the pressure on themselves as they fought the emperor.
Ironically, the Habsburgs’ attempt to avoid a military confrontation
with the sultan and renew the Treaty of Vasvar was construed in the
Ottoman camp as a sign of weakness.
Convinced that the Habsburg military was on the verge of col-
lapse and encouraged by the French who viewed an Ottoman invasion
as essential to their victory in the west, Kara Mustafa Paşa moved with
a large army against Vienna in June 1683. By July, the Habsburg capital
was under Ottoman siege. The Habsburg emperor, however, had organ-
ized a coalition that included Jan Sobieski, the Pope, the Spaniards,
and the Portuguese. The defenders’ determined resistance, the poor
generalship of the Ottoman grand vezir, and a surprise attack by a Ger-
man relief force and an even larger Polish army led by Sobieski, made
an Ottoman defeat inevitable.46 In a fierce battle on September 12, the
Ottoman forces were routed.47 More than 10,000 Ottoman soldiers
were killed.48 The Ottoman army disintegrated and lost any semblance
of organization and discipline, leaving behind its heavy cannon and
badly-needed supplies.49 The shocked grand vezir tried to rally his
army in Belgrade, but it was already too late. His enemies in Istanbul
had convinced the sultan that his chief minister was solely responsible
for the humiliating debacle at the gates of Vienna. On December 25,
1683, the grand vezir was executed by the order of his royal master.50
The execution of Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa only exacerbated
the crisis. Without a commander capable of rallying the troops and fac-
ing a shortage of equipment and supplies, the Ottoman forces fell into
disarray. Worse, a new Holy League was formed in 1684, which
included the Habsburgs, Venice, Poland, the Pope, Malta, Tuscany, and
later Russia. The Habsburgs began to push southward, moving their
forces into Hungary and capturing Buda in September 1686. With the
disintegration of Ottoman defenses in Hungary, the troops, who were
suffering from low morale and lack of pay, revolted. The revolt spread
as angry sip^ ahis who had lost their timars to the invading Habsburg
army crossed the Danube searching for new sources of income and
seeking government officials responsible for the Ottoman defeat. The
panic-stricken officials who were facing not only the Habsburgs, but
also their own angry troops, fled to Belgrade.
The devastating defeats exposed the weaknesses of the Ottoman
Empire and opened the door to aggressive European campaigns on all
fronts. The Habsburgs concentrated their attacks on Hungary, Serbia,
and Bosnia, while Poland invaded Podole and Moldavia, and the Vene-
tians targeted Albania, Morea, and the Dalmatian coast. To the surprise
and dismay of their European foes, the Ottomans fought courageously
against Sobieski and his Polish army, beating back his efforts to take
Kamenec in September 1687 and establish a foothold in Moldavia.
From 1684 to 1687, despite assistance and support from Russia and
the Cossacks, the Poles failed to breach the Ottoman defenses, which
were reinforced and strengthened by the Crimean Tatars. To the south
and southwest, however, the Venetians managed to score several im-
pressive victories. While the initial attempt to establish a foothold in
Bosnia was beaten back by Ottoman troops in 1685, Venice eventually
occupied several strategic forts on the Dalmatian coast. Venetian forces
also used the Morea as a base to invade mainland Greece. By September
25, 1687, they had stormed and occupied Athens. As the news of the
defeats and loss of territory spread, the members of the ruling elite, as
well as the populace in Istanbul, became increasingly aware of the grav-
ity of the situation. The continuation of attacks by the Habsburgs from
the north and the Venetian push into Morea and mainland Greece trig-
gered a massive influx of refugees fleeing their homes for the capital.
A sharp drop in agricultural production and the subsequent loss
of revenue for the central government worsened the situation. The pol-
icy of recruiting peasant farmers for the army had already depopulated
many rural communities in Anatolia and southeast Europe, which
began to face the prospect of famine and starvation. Despite the alarm-
ing situation, which threatened the very survival of the state, Mehmed
continued with his daily hobbies of hunting and enjoying the pleasures
of the royal harem. In the dying days of 1687 (November 8), in a gath-
ering attended by K€ opr€
ul€uz^ade Fazil Mustafa Paşa, prominent nota-
bles, and the ulema of the capital, the şeyh€ ulisl^
am, issued a fetva
deposing the sultan and replacing him with a son of Sultan Ibrahim,
who ascended the Ottoman throne as S€ uleyman II.51
After forty years of living in the isolation of the royal harem, the
new sultan could not rule without the support and guidance of those
Traditional Reforms and Territorial Dismemberment
who had installed him on the throne. The janissaries stationed in the
capital used the transition of power as justification for plundering
shops and small businesses and exacting revenge against government
officials they blamed for the empire’s defeat on European battlefields.
The disturbances in Istanbul emboldened the Habsburgs, who had
already established a highly centralized rule over Hungary, to march
toward Belgrade and capture the city on September 8, 1688. The fall of
Belgrade and the collapse of Ottoman defenses in Croatia and Slovenia
ignited a series of anti-Ottoman revolts in Serbia, Bulgaria, and Walla-
chia, where the prince threw in his lot with the Habsburgs. S€ uleyman
II panicked and sued for peace, which the Habsburg emperor Leopold
was prepared to sign. While the Habsburgs were willing to consider
peace negotiations with the agents of the sultan, the Russians, the
Poles, and the Venetians (all of whom did not have to worry about a
threat from France) insisted on the continuation of the campaign
against the disintegrating Ottoman army.52 Thus, the peace negotia-
tions collapsed and the Habsburgs resumed their offensive, occupying
Bosnia, Niş, Vidin, and Skopje in the summer and fall of 1689. Another
Habsburg offensive targeted Transylvania and Wallachia where Otto-
man defenses were collapsing rapidly.53 At this juncture, with the sit-
uation seemingly hopeless, another member of the K€ opr€ul€
u family,
Fazil Mustafa Paşa, agreed to assume power and embark on a major
campaign to reverse the losses that the empire had suffered.54 As the
new grand vezir began his reorganization of the Ottoman army, he fol-
lowed the tradition set by previous K€ opr€
u ministers and introduced
badly needed reforms within the government and the army. Janissary
units incapable of performing on the battlefield were fired, and compe-
tent administrators and commanders were appointed.55 In the summer
of 1690, the grand vezir and his newly reorganized army advanced
northward, recapturing Niş on September 9 and Belgrade on October
8, and establishing the Danube as a defensive line. The following sum-
mer, after S€uleyman II died and was replaced by Ahmed II, the grand
vezir embarked on his second campaign against the Habsburgs, who
routed his army at Slankamen on August 19, 1691. Fazil Mustafa Paşa
was shot and killed on the battlefield. For the next four years, as the
two sides wrangled over the terms of a possible peace treaty, Venice,
Poland, and Russia tried to expand their territorial gains against the
Ottoman state, which was further weakened by the death of Ahmed II
and the accession of Mustafa II. Mustafa waged three campaigns
against the Habsburgs, which finally ended in the devastating defeat at
Zenta on September 11, 1697 at the hands of Eugene of Savoy. By then,
the Habsburgs were not the only power gaining territory at the Ottoman
Empire’s expense. To the east, the Russian state under the charismatic
leadership of Peter the Great (1689–1725) had embarked on an ambi-
tious campaign to establish a foothold on the northern shore of the
Black Sea, capturing Azov on August 6, 1696. The Ottomans recog-
nized that it was impossible to fight several European powers simulta-
neously. In November 1698, an Ottoman delegation began to negotiate
a peace treaty with representatives of the Holy League Powers, namely,
the Habsburg monarchy, Poland, Russia, and Venice, at the Serbian
town of Karlowitz.56 The Treaty of Karlowitz (Sremski Karlovci),
signed on January 26, 1699, was negotiated based on the principle of
uti possidetis (as you possess), ‘‘a phrase used to signify that the parties
to a treaty are to retain possession of what they have acquired by force
during the war.’’57 The Habsburgs remained in control of Hungary and
Transylvania while the Ottomans maintained their rule over the Banat
of Temeşvar. Poland received Podole, and Russia established its rule
over Azov and the territory north of the Dniester. Venice emerged as
the master of Dalmatia, the Morea, and several strategic islands in the
Aegean.58 The sultan was also forced to guarantee the freedom of
religion for his Catholic subjects. The humiliating treaty marked the
beginning of a new era.59 The Ottoman Empire ceased to be the domi-
nant power courted by all European powers. Indeed, with the signing
of the Treaty of Karlowitz, the Ottoman state emerged as a retreating
power adopting a defensive posture against the rising power of the
Habsburg and Russian empires. Other European states were quick to
recognize the altered balance of power. With the loss of territory also
came a significant reduction of revenue generated from collection of
taxes as well as unemployment for those who, until recently, served
the Ottoman government in areas now lost to European states.
Thus, the Ottoman state entered the eighteenth century in tur-
moil and decline. The past glory of its able and charismatic sultans had
become, by 1700, an empty shell. Long wars against the Habsburgs,
Venice, Poland, and Russia had drained the resources of the state,
which could not even pay the salary of its officials and troops. Conse-
quently, corruption and nepotism became rampant. Against this dis-
heartening and demoralizing background, the Ottoman elite once
again appealed to a member of the K€ opr€
ul€u family to save the empire.
Amcaz^ade H€ useyin Paşa became the grand vezir in September 1697
and embarked on another series of reforms that aimed at reducing the
financial burdens of the state without punishing the members of the
subject class with heavier taxes. Taxes on basic consumer goods such
as oil, soap, tobacco, and coffee were reduced. Similarly, tax incentives
were provided to peasants to return to the cultivation of land. The new
grand vezir also restored discipline within the army, reduced the size
of the janissary corps and the sip^ ahis, and reorganized and modernized
Traditional Reforms and Territorial Dismemberment
the Ottoman naval forces under a new command structure. He
clamped down on corruption within the palace and among the ruling
elite and tried to address the abuses by timar holders.60 But, as would
happen again and again in the next two hundred years, the grand vezir
ran into formidable opposition from the traditional elite. The opposi-
tion led by the şeyh€ ulisl^
am, Feyzullah Effendi, forced the reform-
minded grand vezir to step down in September 1702. With the rise of
Feyzullah Effendi and his family to power, the process of decline accel-
erated. Taxes remained uncollected and government officials and
troops were not paid their wages. The treasury was drained and cor-
ruption spread to all levels of the civil administration. As the sultan
spent much of his time in Edirne, he did not even realize the severity
of the political and economic crisis in the capital where the janissaries,
who were being sent on a military campaign to the southern Caucasus,
refused to obey orders unless they were paid. With the army taking the
lead, artisans, shopkeepers, merchants, and students from various reli-
gious schools joined a rebellion in July 1703. Mustafa responded by
dismissing Feyzullah Effendi, but the rebels, emboldened by the con-
cessions from the sultan, began their march from Istanbul to Edirne.
The sultan himself could only lead his troops against the rebels, but
the fatal clash was avoided when the troops marching with the sultan
defected and joined the rebels. With Mustafa forced to abdicate in
favor of his brother Ahmed III on August 22, the rebels exacted their
revenge by executing Feyzullah Effendi and his supporters.
Ahmed tried to buy time and reorganize the Ottoman army by
keeping the empire out of war. Every effort was made to increase the
revenue generated by the central government and reduce state expen-
ditures. Many who had participated in recent intrigues and disturban-
ces were captured and killed, their landed estates and personal
properties confiscated in the name of the state. The janissary units
were also purged. Despite these efforts, the Ottomans were once again
pulled into European power politics and eventually open warfare, first
with Russia and then with the Habsburgs. The drive to convince the
Ottoman Empire to confront the Habsburgs and Russia came from
France, which needed an ally in the battle against the Habsburg em-
peror. The Swedish monarch, Charles XII, also sought allies in his con-
frontation with Peter the Great of Russia. Additionally, the khan of
Crimea, Devlet Giray, was anxious to mobilize the Ottoman forces
behind his efforts to resist Russian incursion into the northern Black
Sea region. Initially, the Ottomans resisted the temptation to confront
the Russian and Habsburg threat. The memory of recent defeats and
the humiliating Treaty of Karlowitz were still fresh in the minds of
many Ottoman officials who wished to avoid another military debacle.
The Ottoman refusal to form an alliance with Sweden, however,
emboldened the Russians, who defeated Charles XII at Poltava in the
summer of 1709. Following his defeat, the Swedish king sought refuge
at the Ottoman court and was joined by the Cossack leader Mazepa,
who also fled into the sultan’s territory.
The Ottoman court emerged once again as a center of intrigue
and corruption. The Swedish king, the Crimean khan, and the French
ambassador established close ties with elements within the sultan’s
inner circle and his harem, distributing gifts and bribes to secure a dec-
laration of war by the sultan against Russia. The Russian and British
ambassadors countered by offering financial contributions to those
within the court who were willing to espouse and support the cause of
peace. With the war party beating the drums of war, the sultan sacked
his grand vezir and appointed the governor of Aleppo, Baltaci
Mehmed, as his new chief minister in 1710. The grand vezir was an
advocate for war, but the problem was that the war party itself was
internally divided between those who called for a campaign against
Russia as the highest priority and a second faction advocating an attack
on Venice to recover the Morea.61 The partisans of war against Russia,
supported by the Swedish king and the Crimean khan, triumphed. The
Russian czar had already used the presence of the Swedish monarch at
the Ottoman court as a convenient justification to mobilize his army.
He had also sought and received commitments of support from the
princes of Wallachia and Moldavia. As the news reached Istanbul of
Peter’s military plans, hostilities became unavoidable and the Ottoman
government declared war on Russia in December 1710.
Fortunately for the Ottomans, the Habsburgs did not provide any
support to Peter. Having recognized the threat from an aggressive
Russia, the Tatars and Cossacks came together with the goal of coordi-
nating their raids against Peter’s army. With his rear threatened and the
princes of Wallachia and Moldavia reneging on their promise to pro-
vide support for his troops, Peter, who had crossed the Pruth into
Moldavia in July 1711, was forced to retreat. As the Russian army was
about to cross the Pruth on its return journey, however, the Ottoman
forces struck and surrounded the czar and his troops. The founder of
modern Russia and his army were at the mercy of the Ottoman grand
vezir who could have annihilated them in one blow. Recognizing the
severity of his situation, Peter promised to surrender his cannons,
return the Ottoman-held territories he had occupied, and remove the
forts he had built along the frontier with the Ottoman Empire. In
return, the Ottomans allowed Russian merchants to trade freely in
their territory and agreed to mediate a peace treaty between Russia and
Sweden.62 One of the most important implications of the Russo-Ottoman
Traditional Reforms and Territorial Dismemberment
war was the change in the political structure of the Principalities. The
secret negotiations between the princes of Wallachia and Moldavia and
the Russian government convinced the sultan that he should remove
the native princes and have governors appointed directly by the
Porte.63 The new governors were selected from the Greek Phanariote
families of Istanbul who had played an important role within the Otto-
man state as the dragomans of the sultan.64 With the rise of these new
governors to power, the population in the two Principalities began to
develop a deep resentment toward the ascendancy of the Greek lan-
guage and culture in their administrative system.65
Despite the Ottoman peace with Russia, the internal court
intrigues continued. The Swedish king and the Crimean khan, sup-
ported by the French, Polish, and Venetian ambassadors, advocated
the continuation of war against Russia, while the Dutch and the
English, backed by the Russian ambassador, distributed bribes to secure
a treaty between the sultan and the czar. The advocates of peace between
Russia and the Ottoman Empire triumphed when a new treaty was
signed between the two powers on June 24, 1713. The czar promised to
abandon the territories he had occupied on the northern shores of the
Black Sea, withdraw his forces from Poland, and allow Charles XII of
Sweden to return to his country.66 The Russian retreat only emboldened
the anti-Venice war party, who began to advocate a series of fresh mili-
tary campaigns to recapture the Morea. While the Ottoman forces
attacked Venetian positions and regained their control over the Morea in
1715, their advances against Croatia forced the Habsburgs to ally with
the Venetians and declare war on the sultan.
Once again the confrontation between the Ottoman forces and
the Habsburg army led by Eugene of Savoy proved to be disastrous for
the sultan and his overly confident grand vezir, Damad Silahd^ar Ali
Paşa, whose forces were routed at Petrovaradin (Peterwardein or
Petervarad) on August 5, 1716. The Ottoman defenses collapsed and
they lost Temeşvar in September followed by Belgrade, which fell into
the hands of the Habsburgs on August 18, 1717. The demoralizing
defeats undermined the position of the war party in the court and
allowed the sultan to appoint his closest advisor, Nevşehirli Damad
Ibrahim Paşa, as his new grand vezir in May 1718. The peace negotia-
tions resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Passarowitz on July 21,
1718, with both sides agreeing to maintain possession of the territory
they had conquered. The Habsburgs received the Banat of Temeşvar
and northern Serbia, which included Belgrade and Oltenia (Wallachia
west of the river Olt).67 They also received assurances that their
merchants could operate freely in the sultan’s domains. Catholic priests
also regained their old privileges, which allowed the Habsburg
emperor to interfere in the internal affairs of the Ottoman Empire by
acting as the champion and protector of the Catholic community.68 The
Treaty of Passarowitz dealt a deadly blow to the self confidence of the
Ottoman ruling elite. The Habsburg’s victory attested to the military, tech-
nological, and organizational supremacy of modern European armies. It
was essential now for the Ottoman state to avoid continuous warfare, to
establish a peaceful relationship with its European neighbors, and to use
this opportunity to rebuild its shattered economy and demoralized army.
The new grand vezir, Damad Ibrahim Paşa, was the ideal Ottoman
official to lead the empire at the time when warfare had to give way to
negotiations and diplomacy. He purged the sultan’s inner circle and in-
stalled his own men in key positions within the royal harem and the
central administration. To divert the sultan’s attention to sexual desires
and personal fantasies, he ordered the construction of a palace named
Sa’dabad (Place of Joy), which was to serve as the center for various
royal entertainments. Designed after Fontainebleau, Sa’dabad emerged
as the model for other palaces later built by the wealthy members of the
ruling elite along the banks of the Bosphorus. Ibrahim Paşa built a pal-
ace for himself on the Anatolian side of the Strait. It contained gardens
and fountains that imitated the French. The tulip emerged as the flower
of the time, which later came to be known as Lale Devri (the Tulip
Period).69 During late night garden parties, turtles with candles on their
backs moved through the tulip beds while entertainers, including poets
and musicians, performed their latest lyrics and songs for a dazzled
audience that included foreign dignitaries and diplomats.70 If the lower
classes could not afford to build palaces with gardens and fountains,
they could still enjoy the increasing number of taverns and coffeehouses
that served as centers of public entertainment.71 Thus, the sultan and
his grand vezir used ‘‘sumptuous consumption’’ to ‘‘enhance their politi-
cal status,’’ and to establish themselves as ‘‘models for emulation’’ and
the cultural leaders of a new era in Ottoman life.72
The new grand vezir was not simply a man of extravagant taste
but also an intelligent politician and diplomat with a new approach to
diplomacy and foreign policy. In private negotiations with European
diplomats, he reassured them of his peace strategy and convinced them
of his good intentions by offering tantalizing concessions. He won the
friendship and confidence of the Russian czar by promising his ambas-
sador in Istanbul that he would no longer interfere in the conflict
between Russia and Sweden. To further reassure the Russians, he asked
the Tatars to stop their raids into Russian and Polish territories. The
grand vezir understood that the empire needed to adopt a new
approach toward Europe, using diplomacy as the principal means of
resolving conflicts and warfare only as the last resort. He also
Traditional Reforms and Territorial Dismemberment
appreciated the need for collecting information on European political
and military affairs. Not surprisingly, therefore, he dispatched Ottoman
ambassadors to European capitals, where he used them not only as
diplomats on foreign policy issues but also as informants who visited
European factories, hospitals, and zoos, reporting back to him on the
latest European fort building techniques and other innovations.73
Ottoman officials who had always believed in the superiority of their
system took up residence in European capitals, where they were
exposed to new customs, practices, ideas, beliefs, and technology. They
soon recognized the need to borrow selectively those innovations that
could help the Ottoman state to catch up with its European contend-
ers. One of these innovations was the first printing press in 1727,
which was initially opposed by the ulema and the scribes, who feared
that it would put an end to their relevance in society. The grand vezir
assured them that the printing press would be only used for non-religious
publications, particularly in the arts and sciences.74
A crisis in Safavid Iran and Ottoman intervention in the country’s
internal affairs brought the Tulip Period to a sudden end. Ottoman–Iranian
relations had remained peaceful following the campaigns of Sultan
Murad IV and the signing of the Treaty of Qasr-i Shirin in 1639. How-
ever, in October 1722, an Afghan army led by Mahmud, a leader of
Ghalzai tribesmen in southern Afghanistan, who had rebelled against
the Safavid monarchy in Iran, marched to the Iranian capital Isfahan
and deposed the Safavid monarch, Shah Sultan Hussein.75 The sudden
collapse of the Safavid state created opportunities as well as anxieties
for the Ottomans. Battered by the wars with the Habsburgs and the
treaties of Karlowitz and Passarowitz, they now had an opportunity to
regain their lost credibility by scoring a quick and easy victory in Iran.
Ahmed and Ibrahim Paşa could use the vacuum created by the disinte-
gration of the Safavid state to occupy its western provinces and
increase the revenue collected by the central government. But the sul-
tan was not the only sovereign determined to conquer valuable terri-
tory. Having successfully triumphed over Sweden, the Russian czar
Peter was also determined to profit from the sudden disappearance of
the Safavid dynasty in Iran, a country that could serve Russia as a land
bridge to the warm waters of the Persian Gulf and the riches of India.
Using Astrakhan and the river Volga, Peter transported his armies
through Daghistan to capture Darbend on the western shores of
the Caspian Sea, claiming all along that he had invaded Iran to rescue
the Iranian shah from his Afghan captors. The Ottomans invaded
to prevent the Russians from occupying Azerbaijan, Armenia, and
Georgia. Jointly recognizing the need to avoid a military conflict over
Iran, in 1722, the Ottoman and the Russian governments began to
negotiate an agreement that allowed the sultan to move his troops into
Georgia. The Ottomans sent two armies to the east, the first entering
the capital of Georgia, Tiflis (Tbilisi), in July 1723 and the second
occupying the western Iranian town of Kermanshah in October.76 In a
treaty signed on June 24, 1724, the sultan and the czar effectively parti-
tioned northern and western Iran into a Russian and an Ottoman
sphere of influence.77 The partition allowed Russia to claim the south-
ern Caspian provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran as well as the eastern
and central Caucasus all the way to the confluence of the Aras and Kur
rivers. All the territory west of this partition line, including the Iranian
provinces of Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, and Luristan, along with the im-
portant cities of Tabriz, Kermanshah, and Hamedan, were to be annexed
by the Ottomans.78 The treaty allowed Ottoman forces to occupy Hame-
dan in August 1724 followed by Erivan in October. On August 3, 1725,
the Ottomans entered Tabriz while a second and smaller force captured
the town of Ganja in the southern Caucasus in September. Meanwhile,
Afghans remained in occupation of Isfahan, Shiraz, and most of south-
eastern Iran. Iranians who wished to resist the foreign occupation began
to rally around the Safavid prince Tahmasp, who had declared himself
the shah and was living in hiding in northern Iran. To put the Ottomans
on the defensive, the Afghan leader Ashraf sent an emissary to Istanbul
to criticize the sultan for forming an alliance with a Christian power and
helping the Shia Safavids against the Sunni Afghans.79 The response from
the Ottomans to this accusation was swift. The sultan declared war on
the Afghans and ordered his troops to move on the capital, Isfahan. Hav-
ing seized the city of Maragheh in Azerbaijan and Qazvin west of pres-
ent-day Tehran, the Ottoman army was moving south toward Isfahan
when it suffered defeat at the hands of the Afghans who, despite their
victory, sued for peace.80 In return for the Afghans recognizing the Otto-
man sultan as the caliph of the Islamic world, the Ottoman sultan recog-
nized the Afghan leader Ashraf as the shah of Iran.81 The newly
established Afghan rule in Iran was, however, short-lived. The Safavid
prince, Tahmasp, was now joined by Nader Qoli, a man who emerged as
the savior of Iran and the last great Iranian conqueror.82 Using the north-
eastern Iranian province of Khorasan as his base of operation, Nader
routed the Afghans twice in 1729.83 With the Afghans in flight, Nader
moved against the Ottomans in July 1730, forcing them to withdraw
from Hamedan and Nihavand. The defeat jolted the Ottoman capital.
In September 1730, as the Ottoman army was preparing another
campaign against Iran, Patrona Halil, an officer of Albanian origin,
staged a revolt, which was joined by the ulema and a large number of
soldiers and civilians after they denounced the sultan and Ibrahim Paşa
for mismanaging the war and losing territory to the Shia infidels. To
Traditional Reforms and Territorial Dismemberment
save his throne, the sultan ordered the execution of his grand vezir on
October 1, but the rebellion did not subside. The sultan then agreed to
abdicate in favor of the oldest living prince of the Ottoman dynasty, who
ascended the throne as Mahmud I.84 The uncertainty of the transition
period and the weakness of the new sultan allowed Patrona Halil and
his supporters to impose a reign of terror in Istanbul, burning and
destroying the palaces that had been built during the Tulip Period and
killing their wealthy owners. The crisis spread to towns across the
empire, and rebels began to extort money from business and home own-
ers in the capital and demanded a voice in the everyday affairs of the
central government. By mid-November, the new sultan and his advisors
had to put an end to the rebellion. Patrona Halil and his supporters were
invited to the palace where they expected to discuss the next campaign
against Iran. Instead, they were attacked and killed by the agents of the
sultan. Peace or some facsimile thereof was once again restored.
Mahmud was determined to continue with reforms that had started
during the Tulip Period. He was particularly determined to reorganize
the Ottoman army by recruiting European advisors and trainers. In their
search for a capable European advisor, the Ottomans recruited the
French officer, Claude-Alexandre Comte de Bonneval (d.1747), who
had served Louis XIV and later Eugene of Savoy.85 As he could not serve
the sultan and at the same time retain his Christian faith, Bonneval con-
verted to Islam and assumed the name of Ahmed. Because of the formi-
dable opposition from the janissary corps, Bonneval’s reforms were
primarily confined to the reorganization of the artillery corps.86 Other
French officers as well as Scottish and Irish mercenaries joined Bonneval
in training Ottoman army units, but as long as the government failed to
pay regular salaries and pensions, the officer corps would not view mili-
tary service as a career.87 European advisers were also dependent on the
support of the central government, which could change with the
appointment of a new grand vezir. Despite these obstacles, reforms in
the military structure forced the government to introduce modern edu-
cational institutions, such as a military engineering school where mod-
ern sciences were taught. The Ottomans, however, continued to believe
that the old army could be reformed. They refused to accept the
unpleasant reality that to catch up with Europe, they would have to
discard the traditional army and replace the janissaries with units com-
manded by young officers trained in Western military techniques.
Despite his determination to focus on reform, much of Mahmud’s
reign was spent fighting. The revolt of Patrona Halil and the emergence
of a new sultan did not end the hostilities between the Ottoman
Empire and Iran. The skirmishes between the two Muslim states con-
tinued in Iraq, eastern Anatolia, and the southern Caucasus. Having
liberated Iran from occupation forces, the Safavid prince Tahmasp
declared himself the shah. The real power, however, rested with the
shah’s chief minister and commander, Nader, the hero of the hour, who
enjoyed the loyalty of the Iranian army. While the Safavid monarch
wished to take the credit, it was Nader’s genius and charisma as a tacti-
cian, leader, and commander that was responsible for the independ-
ence of the country. After pushing Ottoman forces out of western Iran,
Nader had been forced to abandon his campaign and return to north-
eastern Iran to quell a rebellion. In his absence, the shah attacked the
southern Caucasus in 1731 but was pushed back and subsequently
defeated near Hamedan. The territories that Nader had regained from
the Ottomans were lost, although the shah managed to retain control
over Azerbaijan, Luristan, and Iranian Kurdistan. More to the point,
the defeat allowed Nader to portray the shah as weak and incompetent.
He denounced the treaty that the shah had signed and sent an ultima-
tum to the Ottoman government demanding the restoration of the
provinces Iran had lost. Having excited and prepared his army and the
population for a new war with the Ottoman Empire, Nader marched to
Isfahan in 1732, removed the shah from the throne, and replaced him
with an infant son. He then proclaimed himself the regent and led his
army in another war against the Ottomans. Nader’s first target was
Baghdad, which he surrounded in 1733. The Ottomans, realizing the
power and popularity of Nader, assembled a large force in northern
Iraq. The two armies clashed near Kirkuk in Iraqi Kurdistan. In his
first assault on the Ottoman forces, Nader was soundly defeated by the
Ottoman commander, Topal Osman Paşa, near Mosul, but to the shock
and amazement of his commanders and officials, he managed to reor-
ganize his troops and attack the Ottoman forces three months later and
at a time when Topal Osman Paşa had fallen victim to palace intrigues
in Istanbul and had not received the men, arms, and provisions he had
requested.88 Thus, when the two armies met again in northern Iraq,
the re-supplied and re-energized Iranian force routed the Ottomans.
Topal Osman Paşa was captured and killed by Nader’s soldiers.89 In
Istanbul, the sultan and his advisors could not accept the loss they had
suffered. A new army was organized and dispatched against Nader,
who immediately laid siege to Tiflis, Erivan, and Ganja in the southern
Caucasus with the hope of forcing the Ottomans into an open engage-
ment. The Ottomans took the bait and dispatched their army against
Nader, who crushed it in the battle. The Ottoman commander was cap-
tured and killed, and the southern Caucasus was once again occupied
by Iran. In October 1736, the two powers finally agreed to a peace treaty,
which restored Iranian control over the southern Caucasus and recog-
nized the borders as defined by the Treaty of Qasr-i Shirin in 1639.
Traditional Reforms and Territorial Dismemberment
The Iranian victory over the Ottoman forces served to convince
the Russians to withdraw their remaining troops from Iran, allowing
Nader to remove the Safavid monarch and ascend to the throne as
Nader Shah in 1736. Although both sides were exhausted by continu-
ous campaigns, the Ottomans were determined to punish Nader and
regain the territory they had lost. After several years of peace, they
organized a massive army in the summer of 1745, which marched from
Kars in eastern Anatolia against Iranian positions near Erivan. After
several days of fierce fighting, Nader once again defeated the larger
Ottoman force. The Ottoman artillery was captured by Nader’s men
and thousands of Ottoman soldiers were killed. The two sides agreed
to sign a peace treaty in September 1746, restoring the borders estab-
lished in the Treaty of Qasr-i Shirin, which had been signed between
Murad IV and the Safavids almost a century earlier.
While the conflict with Iran raged on, the Ottoman Empire
became once again engaged in a series of military campaigns against
Russia and the Habsburgs. With the defeat of Sweden and establish-
ment of a pro-Russia ruler in Poland, the Russians could focus on a
campaign against the Ottoman Empire. The dream of Russia was to
establish its rule over the northern shores of the Black Sea and subdue
the Crimean Tatars. The Habsburg objective was to push the Ottomans
as far south as they could and incorporate Bosnia-Herzegovina into
their empire. With the two European powers agreeing to divide the
spoils of war, the Russians attacked the Crimea and captured Azov in
May 1736. Their rapid advance, however, cut them off from their sup-
ply lines and caused famine and death among their troops. The Otto-
man defenses also held them back from pushing into Moldavia in
1737. Meanwhile, the Ottomans organized a counteroffensive against
the Habsburgs, who had invaded Bosnia and Serbia, recapturing Banja
Luka, Vidin, and Niş in the summer of 1737. The Habsburgs did not
have any other alternative but to retreat to Transylvania. Building on
these victories, the Ottomans refused French mediation and attacked,
retaking Belgrade. Recognizing that the war with the Ottoman Empire
would allow Russia to push its forces into Moldavia, the Habsburgs
signed the Treaty of Belgrade on September 18, 1739. The peace
between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs forced the Russians, who
had moved their forces through Polish territory into Moldavia and
Wallachia, to stop their advance. They recognized that peace with the
Habsburgs would allow the Ottomans to concentrate their forces
against the Russian army. Even without an Ottoman counteroffensive,
the Russians were suffering from a shortage of supplies. Thus, the czar
renounced his territorial ambitions and agreed to evacuate Azov. In
return, the sultan agreed to prevent future attacks by the Tatars against
Russian territory. The sultan also consented to permit Russian subjects
to conduct trade in his domains and visit Christian holy places.
With the end of the wars with Russia and the Habsburgs, the
Ottoman Empire entered a long period of peace. In the last years of
Mahmud’s reign, as well as the reigns of the next two sultans, Osman III
(1754–1757) and Mustafa III (1757–1774), the Ottomans refused to
play a role in the War of Austrian Succession (1740–1748) and the
Seven Years’ War (1756–1763).90 Even the murder of the Iranian mon-
arch Nader Shah in 1747 could not entice them to invade their old Shia
nemesis to the east. Instead of using the long period of peace to reorgan-
ize the central administration and the army, however, the Ottomans fell
into a deep sleep. They were awakened in 1768, when Russia, under
Catherine the Great (1762–1796), embarked on an aggressive campaign
to establish Russian rule on the northern shores of the Black Sea.

1. V.J. Parry, ‘‘The Period of Murad IV, 1617–1648’’ in A History of
the Ottoman Empire to 1730, 137.
2. Sykes, A History of Persia, 2:210.
3. Imber, The Ottoman Empire, 80. Shaw, History of the Ottoman
Empire, 1:196.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid., 81.
6. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:198. Imber, The Ottoman
Empire, 81.
7. Sykes, A History of Persia, 2:211.
8. Mohammad Ma’sum ibn Khajegi Isfahani, Khulasat us-Siyar
(Tehran: 1990), 268–75.
9. J.C. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East: A Documen-
tary Record 1535–1956 (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1956),
10. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:199–200.
11. Parry, ‘‘The Period of Murad IV,’’ 155.
12. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:201.
13. Ibid. See also Imber, The Ottoman Empire, 83.
14. Parry, ‘‘The Period of Murad IV,’’ 155. Shaw, History of the Ottoman
Empire, 1:201.
15. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:202.
16. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty, 65.
17. Ibid.
18. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:203.
19. Ibid., 200.
Traditional Reforms and Territorial Dismemberment
20. Ibid., 203. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 236.
21. Ibid., 204.
22. Ibid.
23. Ibid. Kurat, ‘‘Mehmed IV,’’ 162.
24. Ibid.
25. Kurat, ‘‘Mehmed IV,’’ 163.
26. Ibid., 162–3. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:205.
27. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:205–6.
28. Ibid., 1:205. Kurat, ‘‘Mehmed IV,’’ 163.
29. Ibid.
30. Ibid., 207. Kurat, ‘‘Mehmed IV,’’ 163.
31. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 253. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire,
1:207–8. There is no consensus on Mehmed K€ opr€
u’s age, as the year of
his birth is unknown.
32. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 182.
33. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:209.
34. Ibid.
35. Kurat, ‘‘Mehmed IV,’’ 164.
36. Ibid., 165.
37. Ibid., 165–8.
38. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:211.
39. Kurat, ‘‘Mehmed IV,’’ 169.
40. Ibid., 169–170.
41. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:212.
42. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 198.
43. Ibid.
44. Kurat, ‘‘Mehmed IV,’’ 171.
45. Ibid., 172.
46. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 199.
47. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 286.
48. Kurat, ‘‘Mehmed IV,’’ 176.
49. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:214–15.
50. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 287.
51. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:219.
52. Ibid., 1:220.
53. Ibid.
54. Ibid.
55. Ibid.
56. Rifa’at Ali Abou-El-Haj, ‘‘Ottoman Diplomacy at Karlowitz’’ in
Ottoman Diplomacy: Conventional or Unconventional, ed. A. Nuri Yurdusev
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 89.
57. Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (St. Paul:
West Publishing Company, 1990), 1546. Abou-El-Haj, ‘‘Ottoman Diplomacy at
Karlowitz,’’ 91.
58. Sugar, Southeastern Europe Under Ottoman Rule, 200.
59. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 65.
60. J. S. Bromely and A. N. Kurat, ‘‘The Retreat of the Turks 1683–
1730’’ in A History of the Ottoman Empire to 1730, 200.
61. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:229.
62. Ibid., 231. See Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East,
63. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 101–2.
64. Ibid., 102. See also Charles and Barbara Jelavich, The Establish-
ment of the Balkan National States, 1804–1920 (Seattle: University of
Washington Press, 1977), 10, 84. Donald Quataert, The Ottoman Empire,
1700–1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 47–8.
65. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:231.
66. Ibid.
67. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 68.
68. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:232–3.
69. Quataert, Ottoman Empire, 43–4.
70. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:234.
71. Ibid.
72. Quataert, Ottoman Empire, 44.
73. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:235.
74. Ibid., 236–7.
75. Roemer, ‘‘The Safavid Period,’’ 324.
76. Ibid., 327.
77. Ibid.
78. Sykes, A History of Persia, 2:237–8.
79. Ibid., 239.
80. Ibid., 240.
81. Ibid.
82. See Mirza Mehdi Khan Astarabadi, Dorre-ye Nadereh: Tarikh-e Asr-e
Nader Shah (Tehran: 1988), 175–183.
83. Ibid., 202–243.
84. Bromely and Kurat, ‘‘The Retreat of the Turks,’’ 218–19.
85. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 116.
86. Ibid.
87. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:241–2.
88. Mehdi Khan Astarabadi, Dorre-ye Nadereh, 313–23. Sykes, A His-
tory of Persia, 2:251–2.
89. Ibid., 323–43. Sykes, A History of Persia, 2:252.
90. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 68.


During the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth cen-
tury, the Habsburg monarchy was the principal nemesis of the Ottoman
Empire in southeast Europe. Starting with Peter the Great, this pattern
changed as Russia began to expand southward toward the Black Sea.
By the 1760s, Russia had replaced the Habsburgs as the principal threat
to Ottoman rule in the Crimea and the Balkans.1 The conflict between
the Ottoman Empire and Russia began after Catherine the Great
embarked on a campaign to establish Russian rule over the Black Sea,
the Crimea, and Poland.2 She used the death of the Polish king August
III to install her former lover, Stanislaw Poniatowski, as the new ruler.3
The Polish nobles, who opposed Russian and Prussian intervention,
organized an uprising and appealed for support from the sultan.4 Pain-
fully aware of the Russian designs on their territory, the Crimean Tatars
echoed the Polish plea for assistance. After Russian forces, who were
pursuing Polish rebels, crossed the Ottoman frontier and burned a vil-
lage, the Ottomans demanded that Russia withdraw its forces from
Poland. When the demand was rejected, the Ottoman Empire, with
strong encouragement from France and the Crimean Tatars, declared
war on Russia on October 8, 1768.5 The Ottoman declaration of war
provided Catherine with the justification to order her troops to mobi-
lize against the Muslim enemy. The Russian armies attacked Ottoman
positions on several fronts. They first targeted Moldavia, destroying
Ottoman defenses on the Danube and then pushing into Wallachia in
September 1769. The native elite, who resented the Greek governors
ruling on behalf of the sultan, joined the Russians and called on the
populace to rise in support of the invading army. When the Ottomans
finally managed to organize a counteroffensive, their army was literally
destroyed by the Russians on August 1, 1770 at Kagul (Danube Delta).
The Principalities had been lost and the Russian army was poised to
invade Bulgaria and even Istanbul. A second front for the Russian inva-
sion was the Caucasus. The occupation of Georgia allowed Russia to
enter Ottoman territory from the northeast, forcing the sultan to divide
his army and engage in a much wider conflict.
The most successful front for the Russians, however, proved to be
the Crimea. Encouraging division and infighting among the Tatar lead-
ership and in the absence of the Tatar army, which was fighting with
Ottomans in the Principalities, Russia pushed deep into the Crimea
and installed its puppet as the new khan of an autonomous Tatar state
under Russian protection in the summer of 1771.6 Many Tatars and
their leaders who resented and opposed Russian occupation fled to the
Ottoman territory and settled in Rusçuk, dreaming of a day when they
could return and reclaim their homeland.7 The last and perhaps the
most surprising front was the Mediterranean, which provided the set-
ting for a series of naval encounters between the two powers. Using
the English port of Portsmouth and receiving direct support from Eng-
lish naval officers, the Russian fleet, which had embarked on its jour-
ney from the Baltic, sailed through the Atlantic into the Mediterranean
and attacked several Greek islands while Russian agents fanned the
flames of an anti-Ottoman rebellion in the Morea. The decisive battle
took place at the harbor of Çeşme on July 6–7, 1770 when the Russian
fleet, under the command of Admiral Orlov, destroyed the Ottoman
naval force and killed a large number of its sailors and officers.
The occupation of the Principalities and Crimea alarmed Prussia
and the Habsburgs. To calm them, Russia agreed to the first partition
of Poland in 1772. To the relief of the European powers and the Otto-
man Empire, the Pugachev Rebellion (1773–1775) distracted the Rus-
sians and forced Catherine to suppress the peasants and the Cossacks
who had revolted. Both sides were ready for peace, but the sultan was
insistent on retaining his suzerainty over the Crimea. Catherine or-
dered her capable commander, Suvorov, to attack Ottoman positions in
the southern Balkans. The Russian forces defeated the Ottoman army
in 1774, forcing the sultan and his grand vezir to sue for peace and a
new treaty, which was signed on July 21 at K€ uç€
uk Kaynarca south of
the Danube in present day Bulgaria (see Document 2).
The defeat at the hands of the Russians proved to be a turning
point in the history of the Ottoman Empire. According to the treaty,
both sides recognized the independence of the Crimean Tatars and
promised that ‘‘neither the Court of Russia nor the Ottoman Porte shall
interfere with the election’’ of the Crimean Khan or ‘‘in the domestic,
European Imperialism and the Drive to Reform
political, civil, and internal affairs’’ of the country. The Ottomans
gained an important concession in the treaty: ‘‘As to the ceremonies of
religion, as the Tatars profess the same faith as the Mahometans [Mus-
lims], they shall regulate themselves, with respect to His Highness, in
his capacity of Grand Caliph of Mahometanism [Islam], according to
the precepts prescribed to them by their law.’’10 Thus, the title of Ca-
liph was revived to establish the Ottoman claim to the religious leader-
ship of the Islamic world. The Russians withdrew their forces from
Wallachia and Moldavia and the Caucasus. In return, the sultan agreed
to the establishment of Russian protection over all Orthodox Christi-
ans in the Ottoman Empire, ‘‘especially in the Danubian Principal-
ities.’’11 The Ottomans also agreed to pay a large war indemnity, which
drained the central government’s treasury.
One of the most important consequences of the defeat was the
loss of the central government’s authority and credibility in the provin-
ces, which were already in a state of chaos and rebellion. As the author-
ity of the state waned, the power of the local notables (the ayans)
increased. Serving as the sultan’s representatives and tax collectors, the
ayans used their newly acquired position as the intermediary between
the state and the population to rise in stature and power, establishing
local dynasties and acting as the protectors of the local population
against the arbitrary policies and actions of the central government.
Even in Arab provinces, local elites such as the Mamluks in Egypt cre-
ated their own power structure, which nominally accepted the suzer-
ainty of the sultan, but for all practical purposes acted as an
independent state. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, in the
remote and arid Arabian Peninsula, the Ottoman authority was chal-
lenged by the puritanical Wahabi religious movement, which enjoyed
the political and military support of the Saud family. Using Najd as
their operational base, the Wahabi movement spread its virulent anti-
Shia message by attacking the holy Shia cities of southern Iraq such as
Najaf and Karbala and killing thousands of Shia residents and pilgrims
in 1802.
The failure of Ottoman garrisons to protect the life and the prop-
erty of the sultan’s ordinary subjects undermined the legitimacy of the
central government and enhanced the power and authority of local
notables who could render services and offer protections the sultan
and his government could not. The sultan and his advisors adopted a
policy of playing one notable against the other, hoping that the infight-
ing would prevent the rise of formidable power centers in the provin-
ces. Sultan Abd€ ulhamid I, who ascended the throne at the death of his
brother, Mustafa III in January 1774, was appalled by the performance
of the Ottoman forces in the war against Russia and recognized the
urgent need for immediate reforms both in the army and the navy.
These reforms were confined to the introduction of new weapons and
advisors. The sultan tried to break away from traditional biases and
employed European military trainers and advisors without requiring
them to convert to Islam.12 However, the resistance from traditional-
minded elements within the government, the sip^ ahis and the janissary
corps, prevented the introduction of a new military based on modern
training and organization.
The empire’s internal chaos and anarchy emboldened enemies in
the Middle East and Europe. Iran, which had undergone its own anar-
chy and civil war after the assassination of Nader Shah, challenged
Ottoman rule in eastern Anatolia and southern Iraq. The new leader of
Iran, Karim Khan (1760–1779), who founded the Zand dynasty
(1750–1794), was anxious to expand Iran’s commercial ties with Euro-
pean states and particularly with the British in India.13 In search of a
port city that could serve as Iran’s gateway to the Persian Gulf, Karim
Khan dispatched his troops under the command of his brother, S^adeq
Khan, against Basra in southern Iraq. After a siege of thirteen months,
the city surrendered in April 1776.14 Karim Khan’s army remained in
control of the city until his death and the beginning of another civil
war, which forced the Iranian garrison to evacuate in 1779. The great-
est challenge to the territorial integrity of the Ottoman state, however,
came from Russia and the Habsburgs. Successful suppression of the
Pugachev rebellion allowed Catherine to complete her imperial
designs in Crimea. According to the Treaty of K€ uç€
uk Kaynarca, the
Crimea had gained its independence. The Russians intended to install
their puppet, Şahin Giray, as the new khan, but the Ottomans tried to
overthrow him by sending the pro-Ottoman Tatar leader Selim Giray
and his army back to Crimea. In response, the Russians attacked and
destroyed the Ottoman-backed Tatar army in March 1778, forcing the
sultan to accept Crimean independence under Şahin Giray in the Ayna-
likavak Convention of January 1779.15 The Tatar khan was a weak
leader who could only rule with the support of his Russian master.
Thus, in July 1783, Russia dropped its political and diplomatic pre-
tense and annexed Crimea. The Ottoman government, which could no
longer mount an effective offensive against European powers, agreed
to the Russian conquest of Crimea in January 1784.16 With the estab-
lishment of direct Russian rule, tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars,
who refused to be ruled by a Christian monarch, fled their homeland
seeking refuge in the Ottoman Empire.
The grand vezir, Halil Hamid Paşa, tried to use the humiliating
losses to Russia and the Habsburgs as the impetus for his reforms, but
his attempts were once again rebuffed by a coalition of powerful forces
European Imperialism and the Drive to Reform
that included the ulema, the janissaries, and the sip^ ahis, who viewed
the introduction of reforms as a direct threat to their interests and priv-
ileges. The reforms were denounced as an attempt to abandon tradi-
tional Ottoman values, customs, and institutions in favor of newly
imported innovations from Christian Europe, and the grand vezir was
accused of plotting against the sultan. He hoped to convince his royal
master that the only way to withstand the European onslaught was to
strengthen the power and the authority of the central government by
implementing reforms, including the creation of a new engineering
school and a new ‘‘fortification school,’’ as well as the modernization
and expansion of the rapid-fire artillery corps that had been trained
originally by French military advisors. Despite his best efforts, the
grand vezir fell victim to court intrigues and was dismissed and subse-
quently executed in March 1785.17
Although a new war with Russia and the Habsburgs, which
started in 1788, resulted in a series of military defeats, the empire was
saved by the rivalries and conflicts among the European powers as well
as the French Revolution that erupted in 1789. The Habsburgs cap-
tured Bosnia, parts of Moldavia, and eventually Belgrade in October
1789, while the Russians occupied Akkerman and entered Bucharest
in November. The Ottomans could neither organize a counteroffensive
nor maintain their defenses, particularly when Sultan Abd€ ulhamid
died in April 1789 and the new sultan, Selim III, removed the grand
vezir Koca Yusuf from his post. Fortunately for the Ottoman Empire,
both European powers were anxious to end the hostilities and seek a
peaceful resolution. Catherine was disturbed by the Swedish attempt
to incorporate Finland, and the Habsburgs were greatly alarmed by
revolts in Hungary and the Netherlands, as well as the growing power
and influence of Russia in the Balkans. Both shared a common concern
over a new Triple Alliance between Prussia, the Netherlands, and Britain.
The Habsburgs agreed to a new peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire,
signed in Sistova on August 4, 1791. They returned Bosnia, Serbia,
and the parts of the Principalities they had occupied in return for the
Ottoman promise of fair treatment of the sultan’s Christian subjects and
the recognition of the Habsburg emperor as their protector. The peace
with the Habsburgs encouraged the new sultan, Selim III, to organize a
new campaign against Russia. This effort, however, led to a devastating
defeat in April 1791. The Ottomans agreed to a new peace treaty signed
at Jassy (Yassy) on January 9, 1792, which was based on the Treaty of
uk Kaynarca. The sultan recognized the Russian annexation of the
Crimea and sovereignty over Georgia, in return for Russian withdrawal
from the Principalities and Dniester as the boundary between the two
Despite this ominous beginning to his rule, Selim tried to intro-
duce fundamental reforms in the government and the army. As a young
prince, Selim had become fascinated with Europe and had organized a
small group of friends and confidants who shared his fascination with
European customs, ideas, and institutions.18 The repeated defeats suf-
fered by the Ottomans in the eighteenth century had convinced him of
the urgent need to introduce reforms that would restore the power of
the central government while preserving the territorial integrity of the
empire against internal and external threats. Internally, the greatest
challenge for the young sultan was to reduce the power of the local
notables. Although they accepted the suzerainty of the Ottoman sultan,
some ayans acted as quasi-independent rulers, maintaining private
armies and conducting their own foreign policy. Externally, Russia
posed the greatest threat to the territorial integrity of the Ottoman
state.19 Thus, shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Jassy with the
Russians, the sultan implemented his ambitious reform agenda, the
Nizam-i Cedid (New Order). Selim centered his reforms on the creation
of a modern army or Nizam-i Cedid Ordusu (Army of the New Order),
which was to restore central governmental control over provincial
notables (ayans).20 Initially, the sultan believed that the existing janis-
sary and sip^ahi corps could be modernized by introducing new meth-
ods of training and administration. He soon realized, however, that the
reform would ignite fierce opposition from within the corps. Thus, he
abandoned the plan and opted for the more radical approach of creat-
ing a new army altogether. The recruitment for the new army began in
1793–1794. By 1807 when Selim was forced out of power, the new
army had nearly 30,000 well-armed and well-equipped men.21
In their attempt to create a new army, the sultan and his advisers
soon recognized that they could not achieve their objective without
providing the technological and organizational support that a modern
military structure required. The establishment of a new army required
modern weaponry, which had to be either purchased and imported
from European countries or designed and manufactured in factories
built by the Ottoman government. Furthermore, a new army could not
come into existence without proper training from a highly educated
and experienced officer corps, which in turn required the introduction
of modern military schools and colleges with instructors and trainers
who could only be recruited and imported from European countries.
Thus, a military engineering school was created in 1795. Finally, the
entire project required considerable funding and investment from a
government that lacked the financial power to implement such ambi-
tious restructuring. The revenue for the central government derived
from the collection of taxes. However, the government lacked the
European Imperialism and the Drive to Reform
ability to collect taxes in the provinces of the empire where the local
ayans dominated the political and economic life. Without the support
and collaboration of the ayans, the treasury could not generate tax rev-
enues. Thus, in an attempt to centralize the power of the government,
the sultan and his advisers empowered the very forces that stood for
decentralization. Selim also resorted to policies that made his reforms
increasingly unpopular among the population.22 He debased the coin-
age and imposed new taxes on basic consumer goods such as coffee
and tobacco, thereby creating additional financial burdens on a popu-
lation already overtaxed.23
The introduction of the new army forced the Ottoman government
to recruit instructors and trainers, mostly from France. The arrival of
French officers created a new cultural environment where Ottoman offi-
cials and army officers could mix and mingle with Europeans and learn
the latest political, social, and cultural developments that were trans-
forming European societies. The exposure to European ideas, values,
and customs intensified with the establishment of permanent Ottoman
legations to European capitals. Until the reign of Selim, the Ottoman
government had negotiated with European powers through short-term
embassies or the Greek dragomans. The introduction of permanent
Ottoman embassies in European capitals gave rise to a new class of
Ottoman diplomats, who spent a great deal of time interacting with Eu-
ropean politicians, learning not only European languages and customs,
but also European history, politics, and modern ideas.24
With the arrival of European trainers and the introduction of
modern military schools, the anti-reform forces within the government
and the society began to mobilize against the sultan. The new army was
fiercely opposed by the janissaries, who viewed it as an open challenge
to their traditional dominant role. The introduction of European edu-
cation was also opposed by the religious classes led by the şeyh€
who considered Selim’s reforms to be fundamentally incompatible with
Islam. Aside from the growing opposition among the janissaries, the
ulema, and the conservative forces within his own government, Selim
also faced a fluid and at times confusing international arena, which pre-
sented enormous challenges to the survival of the Ottoman state.
Selim had ascended the throne at a time when great events were
unfolding in Europe. The French Revolution began on July 14, 1789
and diverted the attention of European powers from southeast Europe,
allowing the Ottoman Empire to focus on internal reforms. From their
fairly distant vantage point the Ottomans were obviously unaware of
the political and ideological earthquake that was shaking the founda-
tions of European (and indeed, world) power politics. For the Porte,
the name of the game was survival in an international arena dominated
by predatory European powers. As long as the revolution in France
forced the European powers to fight among themselves, the Ottomans
welcomed it. France had always enjoyed a close relationship with the
Ottoman Empire and the sultan considered the French monarch, Louis
XVI, with whom he had corresponded, a close ally.25 It was natural,
therefore, that the Ottoman court received the news of the arrest and
trial of the French king, followed by his execution in January 1793,
with shock and horror. However, the Porte responded to the new situa-
tion with a great deal of caution. In the short run, the sultan was
relieved that the events in Paris had forced Russia and the Habsburgs
to seek peace with the Ottoman state in order to shift their focus to the
events in France. Once Napoleon attacked the Habsburgs, the Porte
must have felt overjoyed by the news of French victory.
The Ottoman relationship with France, however, underwent a sig-
nificant metamorphosis when a French army led by Napoleon landed
in Egypt in early July 1798 and occupied Alexandria. The Mamluks,
who ruled Egypt on behalf of the sultan, either fled or were crushed by
the invading French force, which captured Cairo a few weeks later on
July 22. Napoleon planned to challenge British hegemony by establish-
ing a territorial foothold in North Africa, cutting ‘‘English trade routes,’’
threatening ‘‘England’s control of India,’’ and constructing ‘‘a new
French empire in the Middle East.’’26 While the occupation of Egypt
was accomplished with relative ease, the French fleet was destroyed by
the British at Abukir (Aboukir) in August 1798. The French also failed
in their attempt to establish their rule in Syria when the local notable
Ahmed Cezzar Paşa defended Acre with significant support from the
Ottoman forces and the British fleet between March and May 1799.
Although the French defeated an Ottoman force at Abukir in July
1799, Napoleon abandoned his ambitious plans of conquest in the east
and returned to France in August. After suffering a defeat at the hands
of an Ottoman army backed by British naval forces, the remaining
French troops evacuated Egypt in September 1801.27 The French
aggressive policy toward the Ottoman Empire, however, forced the sul-
tan to seek a close alliance with England and Russia.28
Selim’s reforms had threatened the janissaries more than any
other group within the ruling elite. However, the janissaries were not
alone in their opposition to Nizam-i Cedid. Indeed, they enjoyed the
support of the religious classes, including the conservative ulema and
their students, who had remained wedded to the traditional Ottoman
beliefs and customs, and the inner governmental circles, who also
feared that the sultan’s reforms would undermine their power and sta-
tus. In late May 1807, the rebellion that had been brewing finally
erupted. Not surprisingly, the backlash began with the janissary corps
European Imperialism and the Drive to Reform
stationed outside Istanbul killing a member of Nizam-i Cedid, who had
urged them to wear new uniforms and receive modern military train-
ing. Instead of nipping the rebellion in the bud, Selim hesitated,
encouraged by the şeyh€ulisl^
am to adopt a conciliatory approach toward
the rebels.29 The result was disastrous. The janissary units moved into
Istanbul, gathering on their way other janissaries as well as the ulema
and students. As they arrived in front of the palace, the sultan once
again tried to negotiate with the rebels, promising them to abandon
Nizam-i Cedid and throwing a number of his own supporters, includ-
ing his grand vezir, into the crowd, who tore them into pieces. As in
the past, appeasement merely emboldened the rebels.30 The ulema sup-
ported the rebels and issued a fetva declaring that Selim’s reforms were
opposed to the laws of Islam and demanding that the sultan step down
from the throne. Recognizing the serious nature of the revolt, Selim
accepted his fate and returned to the palace cage. Selim’s cousins, Mus-
tafa and Mahmud, were the only princes of the Ottoman royal house
who could ascend the throne. Since Mahmud was suspected by the
rebels of being close to the deposed sultan and sympathetic to his
reforms, Mustafa was brought out of the royal harem to ascend the
Ottoman throne as Mustafa IV on May 29. Weak and incompetent, the
new sultan was merely a convenient tool in the hands of the rebels,
who used him to reverse Selim’s military and governmental reforms.
Although many among the ayans opposed Selim’s new army in
the fear that a strong central government would attack and destroy
their power, there were also powerful notables who had recognized the
need to build a modern army capable of defending the empire against
the Habsburg and Russian empires. Those ayans, who had fought with
their armies against the Habsburgs and the Russians, recognized the
urgent need for military reforms, which would slow down the process
of territorial dismemberment by bringing the Ottoman military on par
with modern European armies. They may have opposed the centralizing
drive of the Ottoman government in Istanbul, but such centralization
would still be preferable to being conquered and ruled by Christian
European empires, which would swallow them whole. Among the pro-
vincial notables in southeast Europe opposed to the new regime in Istan-
bul, none was as powerful and influential as Bayrakd^ar Mustafa Paşa,
the powerful lord of Rusçuk in present day Bulgaria. Mustafa Paşa, who
supported the deposed sultan and opposed Mustafa IV, organized the
Rusçuk Committee, which brought some of the powerful ayans of south-
east Europe under one umbrella. He then marched into Istanbul in July
1808 to reinstate Selim. As the news of the arrival and aims of the army
from Rusçuk reached the palace, Mustafa ordered the assassination of
Selim and Mahmud, the only members of the Ottoman royal family who
could replace him. Selim was killed, but Mahmud managed to escape
through the roof of the palace and sought refuge with Bayrakd^ar Mustafa
Paşa and his forces.31 The newly arrived army deposed Mustafa and in-
stalled Mahmud as the new sultan on July 28.
Mahmud II (1808–1839) was exceedingly weak and depended for
his survival on Bayrakd^ar Mustafa Paşa, who acted as the power behind
the throne. To generate support for the new regime, Mustafa Paşa called
for a meeting of the prominent ayans of the empire in Istanbul to dis-
cuss the political problems confronting the Ottoman Empire. A few
powerful ayans, such as Tepedelenli Ali Paşa (Ali Paşa of Janina) and
Muhammad Ali (Mehmed Ali) of Egypt, did not participate in the gath-
ering. Many notables, particularly those from Anatolia, however,
attended. After several days of discussions, the participants produced a
‘‘document of agreement’’ called Sened-i Ittifak, which was signed on
October 7, 1808. The document allowed the provincial notables to
reaffirm their loyalty to the sultan and his government, promising to
support their royal master against any rebellion.33 They also agreed
to implement the Ottoman tax system throughout the empire without
diverting any revenue that belonged to the sultan.34 In return, the sul-
tan made a commitment to ‘‘levy taxes justly and fairly.’’35 Recognizing
the need to defend the empire against foreign aggression, the participat-
ing ayans also made a commitment to support the central government
in its efforts to recruit men for the new army.36 Aside from making the
above mentioned commitments to the sultan, the ayans also agreed to
rule their provinces justly, to respect each other, and avoid interference
in the internal affairs of fellow notables and governors.37 Through the
Sened-i Ittifak, Bayrakd^ar Mustafa Paşa and the ayans who were allied
with him tried to impose a pact on the sultan and ‘‘legitimize their priv-
ileges and autonomy in the provinces.’’38 Indeed, the agreement ‘‘recog-
nized the land as the private property of the ayans’’ although the central
government retained the authority to confiscate it.39
Bayrakd^ar Mustafa Paşa reorganized the disbanded Nizam-i Cedid
under the new name of Se gban-i Cedid (New Segbans, or the new Dog
Keepers). He also tried to reform the janissary corps by prohibiting the
sale of their positions, restoring the traditional system of seniority, and
demanding that they receive modern training.40 The notable from
Rusçuk was convinced that he had crushed the opposition, but he
underestimated the power of the janissaries, the ulema, and the guilds.
He also alienated the sultan, his government officials, and the popula-
tion of the capital by adopting an arrogant attitude, refusing to consult
Mahmud, and confiscating timars and land supervised by religious
foundations.41 Despite these difficulties, the opposition could not
move against him as long as his forces remained in Istanbul. A revolt
European Imperialism and the Drive to Reform
staged by rival ayans from Bulgaria forced the grand vezir to reduce
the number of his men in the capital and to send a considerable seg-
ment of his army to Rusçuk, which had been attacked by the rebels.
Believing that he had full control over the capital, Bayrakd^ar Mustafa
Paşa had also allowed many of the ayans and their units who had
marched with him to Istanbul to return to southeast Europe. The
opposition seized this opportunity and struck again. Janissary divisions
spread the rumor that Bayrakd^ar Mustafa Paşa intended to disband
their corps. Joined by an angry mob, they stormed the palace and
trapped Bayrakd^ar Mustafa Paşa in a powder magazine, where he blew
himself up on November 15, 1808.42
The anti-reform forces believed that their coup had succeeded and
that they had once again gained the upper hand. They were wrong.
Having learned from the mistakes of his ill-fated cousin, Mahmud
refused to concede to the demands of the rebels. He understood that
offering concessions to the rebels would only embolden the opposition.
Instead, he reacted quickly and swiftly, ordering his men to kill Mustafa
IV. With the assassination of Mustafa, the sultan believed that the rebels
had to accept him as the only remaining member of the Ottoman
dynasty. Mahmud also called on the loyal commanders to rally to his
support. As his troops arrived in the palace, Mahmud felt sufficiently
confident to reject the demands of the rebels, who were then attacked
by land and sea. The absence of an alternative to Mahmud and his abil-
ity to organize his forces against the janissaries convinced the rebels
that they could not depose the sultan. Both sides agreed to talk. After
extensive negotiations between the representatives of the sultan and the
rebels, Mahmud agreed to disband the new Segbans (the new army
units). In return the rebels agreed to Mahmud remaining on the throne.
The anti-reform forces had gained a major concession from the sultan
and they seemed to have scored a significant victory. But the sultan had
also managed to survive. The events of November 1808 taught him that
the janissaries could not be reformed and that they would do everything
in their power to undermine the modernization of the Ottoman army.
The only solution was to destroy the janissary corps altogether. Before
destroying the janissaries, however, the Ottoman government had to
confront the threat posed by nationalist rebellions in the Balkans,
which were challenging the authority of the sultan.
The Ottoman system was built on the principle of dividing the
population of the empire into separate and distinct religious commun-
ities. The millet system had worked well in an era when religious iden-
tity reigned supreme. Ironically, the preservation of national cultures
within the framework of religious communities allowed distinct ethnic
and linguistic feelings and identities to survive. By the end of the
eighteenth century, under the influence of French revolution, a mod-
ern secular intelligentsia imbued with nationalistic ideas began to chal-
lenge the ideological hegemony of the traditional religious hierarchies,
who had historically collaborated with the Ottoman regime. Nation
was to replace God as the object of devotion, and the creation of a
strong and independent state was proposed as the only alternative to
collaboration with a foreign and alien sultan.
As a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, and multi-religious empire
that recognized the supremacy of religious identity, the Ottoman state
failed to develop an antibiotic for the bacteria called nationalism,
which would ultimately destroy the territorial integrity of the empire.
The political potency and popularity of nationalism among the sub-
jects of the sultan were encouraged and intensified by the direct and
open support it received from powerful European states. In national-
ism they discovered an ideology with the capacity to challenge and
destroy the Ottoman Empire from within. But nationalism proved to
be a double-edged sword. Fomenting nationalistic revolts in the Bal-
kans undermined the authority of the sultan and intensified the proc-
ess of territorial disintegration. The emergence of independent nation
states, however, posed a similar threat to others, such as the Russian
and Austrian empires, which also contained within their borders an
ethnically and linguistically diverse population.
The first nationalist movements to challenge the Ottoman power
in the Balkans erupted in Serbia and Greece. The revolt in Serbia had
already started in April 1804 during the reign of Selim III. The leader
of the revolt, Kara George (Karajordje), denounced the abuses of janis-
sary units stationed in Serbia.43 The central government, which was
planning to modernize the Ottoman army, did not oppose the rebellion
and used it to remove janissary garrisons. The removal of the garri-
sons, however, allowed the revolt to gain momentum, emerging as a
full-fledged movement for autonomy. Despite the support they
received from the Russian government, which invaded Wallachia and
Moldavia in 1806, the Serbs could not fight the superior power of the
Ottoman army, which crushed their revolt in October 1813.44 The sup-
pression of the revolt did not address the underlying causes of discon-
tent among the Serbian population. Two years later, in March 1815, a
new revolt erupted, this time under the leadership of Milos Obrenovic,
who intended to gain autonomy for a Serbian principality through
negotiations with the Ottoman central government.45 To neutralize the
rebellion, the Ottoman government reached a settlement of the conflict
with Obrenovic. In return for recognizing the autonomy of a Serbian
principality between Belgrade and Niş, the Ottomans maintained the
right to preserve army garrisons in the important urban centers and
European Imperialism and the Drive to Reform
receive an annual tribute. Obrenovic, called the ‘‘Serbian Paşa’’ by his
‘‘disgruntled countrymen,’’ failed to gain independence for his people.47
He did, however, demonstrate to other ethnic and linguistic commun-
ities in the Balkans the possibility of revolting and gaining limited
autonomy from the central government in Istanbul.
The second revolt to challenge the Ottoman rule began in Greece
and culminated in the establishment of an independent Greek state.
Ironically the revolt began after the sultan clashed with the powerful
ayan, Tepedelenli Ali Paşa (Ali Paşa of Janina), who at the height of his
reign ruled a vast region that included much of present day Greece and
parts of Albania.48 In Istanbul, Mahmud, who was determined to
impose the authority of the central government on the provincial
ayans, had watched with some anxiety the emergence of Ali Paşa as a
strong ruler. Indeed, the capable and ambitious notable had accumu-
lated enormous prestige and conducted his own foreign policy. Many
in the sultan’s inner circle warned him against attacking the powerful
magnate. The sultan, however, rejected their advice and ordered an
invasion of Greece. He could not have known that by attacking Ali
Paşa, the Ottoman government would provide a golden opportunity to
the Greek nationalists, who had been organizing a movement to over-
throw Ottoman rule and establish an independent Greek state. Indeed,
the destruction of Ali Paşa removed the only power structure that
enjoyed popular legitimacy among the native population capable of
suppressing the Greek revolution.
The Greek nationalist movement was led and inspired by Philiki
Hetairia (Etairia) or Friendly Society, which came into existence in
Odessa in 1814.49 From its inception the movement was supported by
wealthy and influential Greek merchant families residing in Crimea.50
Starting in 1820, Alexander Ypsilantis (Ipsilantis/Ipsilanti), a member
of one of the most powerful Phanariote (named after the Phanar quar-
ter) families of Istanbul who ‘‘claimed descent from the Byzantine
princely dynasty of Comnenus,’’ emerged as the leader of the secret so-
ciety.51 He had studied in Russia and joined the Russian army as an of-
ficer. Ypsilantis’s original plan was to organize an anti-Ottoman revolt
in Wallachia and Moldavia in order to divert the attention of Ottoman
forces from Greece, where he was secretly training his supporters. He
also hoped that the uprising in the Danubian Principalities would force
Russia to intervene on behalf of the rebels.52 The ultimate dream of
Ypsilantis was to recreate the Byzantine Empire through a mass upris-
ing of all peoples of the Balkans.53 In March 1821, Ypsilantis and his
supporters entered Moldavia, but the revolt they had hoped for did not
materialize. The Romanian population was generally mistrustful or
outright hostile toward the Greeks, who had ruled their country on
behalf of the Ottoman sultan. Having failed to ignite a popular uprising
against the Ottoman Empire, the Greeks were defeated in June 1821
and Ypsilantis was forced to seek refuge in Hungary.
Although the revolt in the Danubian Principalities failed, the
efforts of Ypsilantis and Hetairia were successful in mainland Greece. In
the Morea (Peloponnese), the Greek national movement benefited enor-
mously from the confrontation between the Ottoman government and
Ali Paşa. Though willing to accept the suzerainty of the sultan, Ali Paşa
refused to give up on his dream of creating an autonomous state under
his own rule. The Ottoman government was well aware that he had
established close ties with Hetairia, cultivating the support of the Greek
population by improving conditions in rural communities under his
control.54 The conflict between the central government forces and Ali
Paşa’s army created a golden opportunity for Hetairia to stage its revolu-
tion. The revolt began on February 12, 1821 in a series of attacks on
Turkish rural communities, followed by a full-fledged uprising in Mani
in April. For the Greeks, the act that marked the beginning of their rev-
olution was Bishop Germanos raising the Cross at the monastery of
Aghia Lavra at Kalavryta in the northern Peloponnese.55 With the sul-
tan’s army focused on defeating Ali Paşa, the Ottoman response to the
Greek revolt was slow. Their efforts to suppress it were further hampered
by a new war with the Qajar dynasty in Iran, which began in November
1821 and did not end until July 1823 with the Treaty of Erzurum. The
war with Iran forced the Ottomans to divert some of the army units
needed in Greece to a new campaign in the east. In Istanbul, the news of
the Greek revolt was received with shock and disbelief. The sultan, who
continued to view Ali Paşa as his principal nemesis, demanded that the
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Istanbul denounce the rebels and restore
peace and order among the members of his religious community. When
the revolt spread, the sultan continued to blame the Patriarch, who was
executed by hanging on Easter Sunday, April 22, 1821.56
In January 1822, Ali Paşa was caught and killed by Ottoman
forces. The Greek revolt, however, refused to subside. The guerrilla
attacks staged by Greek nationalists against Ottoman troops increased.
As the military campaigns intensified, a growing number of villagers
on both sides of the ethnic, religious, and linguistic divide were sub-
jected to brutal attacks, losing their livelihood in the bloody clashes
that took place between the sultan’s troops and the Greek nationalist
fighters. In April 1824, the sultan appealed to Muhammad Ali, the
Ottoman governor of Egypt, for assistance and support. In return for
dispatching his troops to Greece, Muhammad Ali’s son Ibrahim Paşa
was promised the governorship of the Morea and Crete.57 After captur-
ing Crete, the Egyptian forces under the command of Ibrahim Paşa
European Imperialism and the Drive to Reform
landed in the bay of Methoni in February 1825 and stormed and occu-
pied several strategically important forts in the Mani. Soon, much of
the Peloponnese was under Ottoman control, with Missolonghi ‘‘at the
entrance to the Gulf of Corinth’’ falling in April 1826 and Athens just
over a year later in June 1827.58
Throughout this period, atrocities were committed by both sides,
with Greek revolutionaries attacking Muslim Turkish villagers and
Ottoman-Egyptian forces killing Greek civilians. The European newspa-
pers and official circles, however, focused exclusively on ‘‘Turkish atroc-
ities’’ against an unarmed and helpless Greek civilian population.59 This
sustained propaganda ignited intense pro-Greek and anti-Ottoman sen-
timents in Europe. Many European intellectuals, including some highly
educated and enlightened romantics, such as the poet Lord Byron,
became infatuated with the Greek cause and joined the Philhellenism
movement. Lord Byron demonstrated his devotion to the Greek national
movement by joining the battle against Ottoman forces and dying at
Missolonghi in 1824.60 The anti-Ottoman political campaign and the
cry of genocide against a helpless population allowed Russia, France,
and Britain to discard their differences and combine their forces in an
attempt to impose a resolution on the warring parties. In the Greek
revolt, the three European powers recognized an opportunity to inter-
vene in the internal affairs of the Ottoman Empire and advance their
own political, diplomatic, and commercial interests in the Balkans.
When the three powers expressed their intention to mediate, the Greek
nationalists expressed their support while the sultan rejected it.61 In
response, the three European states imposed a naval blockade on the
Egyptian supply lines. The inevitable confrontation between the
Ottoman-Egyptian forces and the combined naval forces of Russia,
Britain, and France erupted in October 1827 at Navarino, where the
European powers destroyed the entire Ottoman-Egyptian fleet. The re-
fusal of the sultan and his advisors to accept the defeat and mediation
allowed Russia to declare war on the sultan and invade Ottoman terri-
tory in April 1828. Russian forces crossed into eastern Anatolia from
their bases in the south Caucasus and captured Erzurum in July 1829,
while a second Russian army attacked and occupied Edirne in August.
The destruction of the Ottoman and Egyptian naval forces and intense
pressure from Russia and Great Britain forced Muhammad Ali to with-
draw his troops from Greece in October. The sultan could only sue for
peace. The Treaty of Edirne signed in September 1829 forced the sultan
to recognize the independence of Greece and the autonomy of Molda-
via, Wallachia, and Serbia, which was enlarged by receiving additional
territory.62 Although a new independent Greek state had been estab-
lished, it did not incorporate all the territory and the districts that Greek
nationalists had envisioned. Great Britain, France, and Austria did not
wish the new Greek state, which was under strong Russian influence,
to be a large and strong political entity. It would have been foolish for
these European powers to further undermine the power and authority
of the Ottoman sultan by rewarding the aggressive and expansionist
Russia with a new base of operations in the Balkans.63
Even before the destruction of the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet at Nav-
arino and the Treaty of Edirne, Mahmud had concluded that he could
not establish the authority of the central government without building a
new modern army. Perhaps his most important lesson was that as long
as the janissaries survived, the anti-reform forces could always rely on
their support to challenge governmental reforms. Learning from the
mistakes of Selim III, Mahmud did not create a new and separate army
that could be viewed as a direct challenge to the janissaries. Instead, he
selectively modernized army units such as the artillery corps, which
were crucial in any future confrontation. By June 1826, the sultan was
ready to act. First, he demanded that the janissaries follow the model of
other military units and reform. When they revolted and tried to chal-
lenge him by rallying the conservative forces, Mahmud, unlike his
cousin, refused to budge. He knew full well that concessions to the reb-
els would be construed as a sign of weakness. When the grand vezir and
the ulema rallied to the banner of their sultan and Mahmud’s agents
called on the people of Istanbul to rise against the corrupt and rebellious
troops, the janissaries did not have any other alternative but to return to
their barracks. Determined to use the revolt as a justification to destroy
them, the sultan struck back, ordering his artillerymen to shower the
janissary barracks with cannon balls and force the gates to open. This
allowed the units loyal to the sultan to force their way into the barracks,
mowing down every janissary they encountered. The victory was com-
plete. The day after the massacre, the janissary corps was officially abol-
ished. The attack on the janissary units stationed in Istanbul was
replicated in other provinces of the empire. The message to the conserv-
ative forces was clear. You may challenge the will and policies of the sul-
tan, but you will no longer have the military means to overthrow him.
The destruction of the janissaries by Mahmud was celebrated through-
out the empire as the Vaka-ye Hayriye or the beneficial event.64
The destruction of the janissaries may have removed a formidable
obstacle to the creation of a modern army, which was the hallmark of
the sultan’s efforts to build a strong and centralized governmental
authority, but it also created a vacuum that could not be filled overnight.
The absence of a strong and well-trained army undermined Ottoman
attempts to maintain their rule over Greece. But if the loss of Greece
struck a devastating blow to Ottoman prestige and power, it was the
European Imperialism and the Drive to Reform
revolt of Muhammad Ali, the governor of Egypt, that brought the empire
to the verge of political extinction. Muhammad Ali, originally an Alba-
nian from northern Greece, had emerged as the master of Egypt after
building a strong and modern army with direct assistance and support
from France. Mahmud, who was fully aware of Muhammad Ali’s suc-
cesses and his newly acquired military capability, asked for his support
when the Greek revolution erupted. The defeat at Navarino, however,
forced the governor of Egypt to withdraw his forces. He had lost his fleet
and he could not receive any compensation for such a devastating loss
from the sultan in Istanbul.65 The battles of the Greek revolution had
demonstrated that the Ottoman army was in a sorry state and could not
prevent him from expanding his rule into neighboring lands and provin-
ces. Initially, Muhammad Ali had thought of building his own kingdom
in North Africa by attacking Algeria and Tunisia, but the French had
acted faster by attacking and occupying Algiers in July 1830.
With North Africa falling into the hands of the French, Muhammad
Ali and his son Ibrahim Paşa, who acted as his father’s army commander,
turned their attention eastward and attacked Palestine and Syria in
October 1831.66 In May 1832, the town of Acre fell, followed by Damas-
cus in June. By July, Ibrahim Paşa had routed Ottoman forces twice,
establishing his rule over the entire country.67 As in the case of the Greek
revolution, the sultan refused an offer for a negotiated settlement. With
offers of peace rejected, the Egyptian army pushed into Anatolia and, in
a battle near Konya in December, defeated the Ottoman army that had
been sent from Istanbul. On February 2, 1833, the Egyptians reached
K€utahya in western Anatolia.68 Mahmud responded to the defeat by
opening negotiations with European powers with the aim of securing
their support against his rebellious and ambitious subject. When
the British and the Austrians turned down the request, the sultan
asked for military intervention from Russia. While the arrival of the
Russian fleet in February 1833 prevented Muhammad Ali from
marching his troops to Istanbul, it could not dislodge the Egyptian
forces from their newly conquered territories in Anatolia. To end the
crisis, the sultan agreed to sign the Treaty of K€ utahya in April and
appoint Muhammad Ali the governor of Syria. On July 8, he also
signed the Treaty of H€ unk^ar Iskelesi with Russia, an eight-year
defense pact, which confirmed the Treaty of Edirne.69 According to
this treaty, Czar Nicholas received a promise from the sultan that the
Ottoman government would close the straits to all ships at the time
of war between Russia and a foreign power. Thus, Russia succeeded
in using the Ottoman Empire as a means of blockading any future
attack by a hostile European power against its positions and establish-
ing naval supremacy in the Black Sea.
The Treaty of H€ unk^ar Iskelesi has been lauded as a great victory
for Russian diplomacy, for it emphasized a successful policy of control-
ling the Ottoman Empire ‘‘from within.’’70 Despite the peace with
Muhammad Ali, the sultan was anxious to strengthen his army and
strike back at the disloyal and rebellious governor of Egypt. The Brit-
ish, who were greatly alarmed by the growing power and influence of
Russia, viewed Muhammad Ali as an ally of France whose aggressive
and expansionist policies toward the Ottoman Empire would force the
sultan to depend on the Russians for his survival. Meanwhile, the sul-
tan hoped to utilize British anxiety over Muhammad Ali to gain their
support for a campaign against him. However, in 1834, when an Otto-
man army began to move toward Syria, the British cautioned the sultan
against the attack.
In 1838, the tension between the sultan and Muhammad Ali
erupted again when the latter stated his intention to declare his inde-
pendence from the Ottoman Empire. When this ambitious and provoc-
ative move was opposed by his closest ally, the French, Muhammad Ali
backed down. The sultan was now determined to secure the support of
Great Britain in a campaign to destroy Muhammad Ali. Using this op-
portunity to expand its economic and commercial interests in the
region, the British prime minister, Palmerston, signed a commercial
treaty with the Ottoman government in August 1838, which confirmed
British capitulatory privileges and opened the Ottoman markets to
British investment and trade.71 The treaty has been interpreted as com-
pensation to the British government for its support during the war
against Mohammad Ali, and it has been identified as the principal
cause for the collapse of the Ottoman economy in the nineteenth cen-
tury.72 Without British support, Mahmud mobilized a force, which was
sent against Muhammad Ali’s army in Syria. When the Ottoman army
attacked Aleppo in June 1839, Egyptian forces under the command of
Ibrahim Paşa destroyed it, killing most of the Ottoman soldiers and
officers. Less than a week later, Mahmud died in Istanbul after a long
battle with tuberculosis. It is believed that the news of the devastating
defeat in Syria arrived after the ailing sultan had taken his last breath.
Despite his many failures on the battlefield, Mahmud introduced
a number of important political, military, judicial, educational, and
cultural reforms, which transformed the Ottoman Empire and laid the
foundation for a group of government officials to push a far more am-
bitious program of reforms from 1839 to 1876. Indeed, one of the fun-
damental differences between the reforms of Mahmud and those that
were introduced before his reign was the underlying commitment of
the sultan to abandon the old institutions and replace them with new
structures that were borrowed from various European countries.
European Imperialism and the Drive to Reform

1. William Hale, Turkish Foreign Policy, 1774–2000 (London: Frank
Cass, 2000), 21.
2. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 68–9.
3. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:247. Aksan, An Ottoman
Statesman, 115. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 374.
4. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 69.
5. Ibid.
6. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:249.
7. Ibid.
8. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 140.
9. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, 1:55.
10. Ibid., 55–6.
11. Aksan, An Ottoman Statesman, 167.
12. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:251.
13. See Mirza Mohammad Sadeq Mousavi Nami Isfahani, Tarikh-i
Guitygosha (Tehran: 1988).
14. Ibid., 195–211.
15. Aksan, An Ottoman Statesman, 174–76.
16. Ibid., 184.
17. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:257.
18. Erik J. Z€urcher, Turkey: A Modern History (New York: I.B. Tauris,
2004), 21.
19. Ibid.
20. Kemal Karpat, ‘‘Comments on Contributions and the Borderlands,’’
in Ottoman Borderlands: Issues, Personalities and Political Changes, eds. Kemal
H. Karpat with Robert W. Zens (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press,
2003), 11.
21. Z€urcher, Turkey, 22.
22. Ibid., 24.
23. Ibid.
24. Ibid., 23.
25. Ibid., 21.
26. Gordon Wright, France in Modern Times: 1760 to the Present (Chi-
cago: Rand McNally & Company, 1960), 87.
27. Alan Palmer, The Decline & Fall of the Ottoman Empire (New York:
Barnes & Noble, 1992), 59.
28. Z€urcher, Turkey, 25.
29. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:273–4.
30. Ibid., 1:274.
31. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 125–6.
32. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:2–3. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 28.
33. Z€urcher, Turkey, 28.
34. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:2. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 28.
35. Ibid.
36. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 422.
37. Ibid.
38. Halil Inalcik, ‘‘An Overview of the Ottoman History’’ in The Great
Ottoman Turkish Civilization, ed. Kemal Çiçek, 4 vols. (Ankara: 2000), 1:86.
39. Karpat, ‘‘Comments on Contributions and the Borderlands,’’ 10.
40. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:4.
41. Ibid.
42. Ibid., 2:5. Z€
urcher, Turkey, 29.
43. Ibid., 1:271, 2:14. Z€urcher, Turkey, 31.
44. Z€urcher, Turkey, 31. See Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 196–202.
45. Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 54.
46. Z€urcher, Turkey, 31.
47. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 208.
48. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 429.
49. Z€urcher, Turkey, 31.
50. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:17.
51. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 430.
52. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 216.
53. Z€urcher, Turkey, 32.
54. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 216.
55. Ibid., 217. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 429.
56. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 430.
57. Ibid., 432.
58. Ibid.
59. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 217.
60. Ibid., 224.
61. Ibid., 226.
62. Z€urcher, Turkey, 35.
63. Ibid.
64. Ibid., 40.
65. Ibid., 36.
66. Ibid.
67. Ibid.
68. Hale, Turkish Foreign Policy, 24.
69. Ibid., 25.
70. Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 23.
71. Z€urcher, Turkey, 38. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:50.
72. Inalcik, ‘‘An Overview of the Ottoman History,’’ 1:87.

On November 3, 1839, the new Ottoman sultan Abd€ ulmecid ordered
his ministers and dignitaries as well as representatives of foreign
powers to gather in the rose garden of the Topkapi Palace where his
foreign minister, Mustafa Reşid Paşa, read a decree entitled Hatt-i Şerif-i
G€ulhane, the Noble Edict of the Rose Garden (see Document 3).1
Though written under pressure from European powers, the issuance of
this imperial edict signaled the beginning of a period of governmental
reforms that came to be known as Tanzimat (Reorganization).2 The
document guaranteed the subjects of the sultan security of life, honor,
and property.3 It also promised a regular system for assessing and levy-
ing taxes as well as a just system of conscription and military service.4
The decree committed the central government to a number of essential
reforms, such as establishing a new penal code, eradicating bribery,
and creating a regular and just tax system that would eliminate inequi-
ties and special privileges, such as tax farming. Thus, the imperial
decree demonstrated a new commitment by the sultan and his advisors
to the rule of law, the equality and fair treatment of all Ottoman sub-
jects regardless of their religion and ethnicity, and the establishment of
a new justice system that protected their life and property against arbi-
trary attacks and confiscation.5 The period of Tanzimat represented a
systematic attempt by the central government to strengthen the author-
ity of the Porte by ‘‘promoting the notion of a state based on law’’ and
efficient administrative practices.6
In the traditional system, the Ottoman state had a limited number
of obligations toward its subjects, such as the maintenance of security
and order, and protection against outside aggression.7 In the age of
Tanzimat, however, as the Ottoman central government adopted the
European model, the role and responsibilities of the state expanded
significantly. For the first time, the government had declared itself re-
sponsible for building a modern economic infrastructure and provid-
ing basic social and economic services ranging from the building of
new schools to constructing roads and railways, which would connect
various urban and rural communities of the empire, stimulate cross re-
gional commerce, and create a more integrated economic system.8
The introduction of reforms, which were to be implemented from
above, required the creation of a highly centralized bureaucracy. In
emulating the European system, the government was divided into sev-
eral ministries with specific tasks and responsibilities. A council of
ministers was created to act as the highest advisory body to the sultan
in his effort to save the empire from further disintegration by imposing
the authority of the Porte over the remotest provinces. Building new
roads and railways was viewed as one of the most important priorities
of the central government. Armies sent to quell internal rebellions and
confront foreign invaders could reach their destination much faster
using a modern road or riding on a train. Telegraph services were
introduced as a means of communicating orders from Istanbul and
receiving the latest news from various provinces. The improvement of
the transportation and communication systems also stimulated the
economy and intensified commercial ties between various regions of
the empire.
In addition to the modernization of the empire’s infrastructure,
the Tanzimat period also witnessed a significant transformation in the
Ottoman educational system. During the reign of Mahmud II, the
Ottoman government had introduced the Ruşdiye (adolescence)
schools, which provided a secular education for male students who
had completed the mekteps (the traditional schools devoted to the
study of the Quran).9 The principal objective for the creation of mod-
ern schools was to train a new educated elite capable of administering
an empire. The religious schools did not teach modern sciences and
humanities, but despite these deficiencies, the reformers did not wish
to attack Islamic schools and propose their closure. Such a move
would have been vehemently opposed by the ulema and it would have
exposed the men of Tanzimat to the accusation of heresy from the reli-
gious classes. Indeed, the fear of opposition from the conservatives
continued to slow down educational reforms and forced the reformers
to attach modern schools to various governmental ministries and
bureaus. Thus, the first medical and engineering schools in the Otto-
man Empire were introduced as integral components of a military
school.10 The introduction of modern educational institutions also
From Tanzimat to Autocratic Modernization
suffered from a lack of adequate funding and the absence of well-
trained teachers and instructors. Despite these difficulties, a new bu-
reaucracy, which was four to five times larger than the imperial
administration and relied heavily on graduates from the modern
schools, was created.11 Finally, the men of Tanzimat tried to create a
modern financial structure and an efficient tax collection system that
would provide the central treasury with sufficient funds to implement
its reform program. The ‘‘main thrust’’ of their financial reforms was
‘‘to simplify the collection of revenues’’ by centralizing the treasury
and delegating ‘‘the responsibility of tax collection to the salaried
agents of the government, rather than governors, holders of prebendal
grants, or other intermediaries of the classical system.’’12
Despite their best efforts to focus on reforms, the men of the
Tanzimat faced serious challenges from both internal rebellions and
foreign aggression, which ultimately undermined their efforts and
resulted in the disintegration of the empire. In October 1840, the Otto-
mans and the British began to exert military pressure on Muhammad
Ali, forcing his troops to evacuate Palestine and Syria in February
1841. The sultan, however, issued a decree granting Muhammad Ali
and his family the right to rule Egypt. Meanwhile, a new crisis in Leba-
non began to occupy the attention of the Ottoman leadership in Istan-
bul. Lebanon was divided among numerous religious communities,
such as the Maronite Christians, the Orthodox Christians, the Druze,
the Sunni Muslims, and the Shia Muslims, who had developed their
own separate leadership and unique identity in opposition to their
neighbors. To maintain peace and security over this internally frag-
mented entity, the Ottoman government had empowered the Shihabi
family to rule Lebanon on behalf of the sultan. Though corrupt and
inefficient, Emir Bashir II had maintained a fragile peace among the
various communities by playing one against another.13 This tenuous
arrangement was, however, undermined when Muhammad Ali’s army
invaded Lebanon under the leadership of his son, Ibrahim Paşa, and
began showing favor to the Maronite Christians over the local Mus-
lims, who had remained staunchly loyal to the sultan.14 Outside inter-
ests compounded the situation. The French found friends among the
Maronite Christians, while the British supported the Druze, a heretical
branch of the Shia sect.15 In October 1840, Emir Bashir was deposed.
Open warfare between the Maronite and the Druze communities
erupted a year later, in October 1841. The Ottoman government, under
pressure from European powers, intervened and imposed a division of
the country into a Maronite and a Druze sancak under an Ottoman
administration in January 1843. Local representatives of each commu-
nity were empowered to collect taxes from their own peasant
population, and councils with mixed representation were organized to
respond to appeals. A general agreement was finally reached in Octo-
ber 1846. Peace was restored but the tension between the religious
communities continued to cause serious difficulties for the Ottoman
The second important foreign policy crisis of the Tanzimat era
was the Crimean war, which forced the Ottoman Empire to declare
war on Russia on October 4, 1853.16 By claiming to protect Serbia, the
Danubian Principalities, and the sultan’s Orthodox Christian subjects,
Russia intended to replace both the Ottoman Empire and Austria as
the dominant power in the Balkans. The ultimate goal of Russian for-
eign policy was to create a series of satellite states that were dependent
on Russian protection and support for their political survival. Parallel
to this was the debate between the Catholic and Orthodox churches
over their rights to various holy sites in Jerusalem, with Russia cham-
pioning the Orthodox position and France that of Rome. In 1852, the
Ottoman government announced its decision on the question of Chris-
tian Holy Places in Palestine and sided with the French position. The
Russian government was outraged, and Czar Nicholas I ordered a par-
tial mobilization of his army to back a new series of demands, includ-
ing the Russian right to protect the sultan’s Christian Orthodox
subjects, which constituted a direct threat to the sovereignty of the
Ottoman state. Confident that it would be supported by several Euro-
pean powers (such as Great Britain, France, and Austria), the Ottoman
government refused to accept the Russian demands. When the czarist
forces invaded the Danubian Principalities, the Ottoman Empire
declared war on Russia.
As the British and the French naval forces crossed the Straits on
their way to the Black Sea, the Ottoman fleet fought the Russian navy
at Sinop on November 30. Most Ottoman ships that fought in the naval
confrontation were destroyed, and thousands of sailors were killed. In
March 1854, France and Great Britain declared war on Russia after
negotiations collapsed. Fearing an attack from Austria, the Russian
forces withdrew from Wallachia and Moldavia, which were then occu-
pied by a joint Austro-Ottoman force.17 The military campaigns that
followed, particularly the attack on Sevastopol, which was occupied in
October 1855, forced Russia to sue for peace.
As the representatives of European powers began to arrive at the
peace conference in Paris in February 1856, the sultan, under pressure
from France and Great Britain, issued a second major reform decree,
the Hatt-i H€um^ayun, or the Imperial Edict committing his government
to the principle of equality of all Ottoman subjects. On an international
level, the Treaty of Paris, signed on March 30, 1856, forced Russia to
From Tanzimat to Autocratic Modernization
withdraw from Wallachia and Moldavia, which along with Serbia were
to regain their autonomy under Ottoman rule. By surrendering south-
ern Bessarabia to Moldavia, Russia’s access to the Danube was blocked.
That famous river as well as the Turkish Straits were declared open to
ships of all countries, and the Black Sea was demilitarized. Russia was
also obliged to withdraw its forces from eastern Anatolia, including the
city of Kars, which it had occupied during the war. Perhaps most
importantly, however, was that the Crimean War and the Treaty of
Paris had resulted in the de facto inclusion of the Ottoman Empire in
the ‘‘Concert of Europe,’’ which had tried to maintain the balance of
power in the continent since the defeat of Napoleon and the convening
of the Congress of Vienna in 1814.18 The territorial integrity of the
empire was thus theoretically preserved, and Russia’s expansionism
into southeast Europe was contained. With Russian aggression neutral-
ized, the leaders of Tanzimat could once again focus on the implemen-
tation of their reform agenda. The presence of large British and French
contingents in Istanbul had exposed the city and its population to Eu-
ropean manners and customs, allowing for the emergence of a more
tolerant cultural environment that helped the leaders of Tanzimat. On
the negative ledger, however, was the sad fact that the Crimean War
had been very costly and forced the Ottoman government to apply for
high interest loans that would eventually undermine the economic in-
dependence of the state. The accumulation of significant debt to Euro-
pean banks and the continuous struggle to generate sufficient revenue
to repay them would undermine the efforts to reform the government
for the remainder of the nineteenth century.
Although the Ottoman Empire received guarantees of support for
its territorial integrity in the Treaty of Paris, inter-communal tensions
and nationalist uprisings by the sultan’s Christian subjects continued
to undermine the authority of the central government. In May 1860,
tensions between the Maronite and the Druze communities in Lebanon
erupted into a civil war, with thousands of civilians massacred on both
sides and the carnage soon spilling into Damascus with even greater
losses. Despite Ottoman attempts to suppress the violence, the French
viewed the crisis as an opportunity to intervene and expand their influ-
ence in the Levant by sending their troops to Beirut. This alarmed Lon-
don, which organized an international conference that resulted in the
withdrawal of Ottoman troops, the stipulation that all taxes collected
be used locally and that the people of Lebanon enjoy equality before
the law. Most significantly, however, was that the Organic Statute for
Lebanon reorganized the country as a special sancak governed by its
own Christian governor, albeit one appointed by the sultan and con-
firmed and supervised by European powers.19
Shortly after the resolution of the crisis in Lebanon, in June 1861,
Sultan Abd€ ulmecid died. During the reign of the new sultan, who
ascended the Ottoman throne as Sultan Abd€ ulaziz on June 25, the
Ottoman Empire continued to face new nationalist revolts, such as
the one that erupted in May 1866 on the island of Crete. While the siz-
able Muslim community on the island had remained loyal to the
sultan, the Greek-speaking Orthodox Christian community which con-
stituted the majority of the population maintained close political, com-
mercial, and cultural ties to mainland Greece. As in the Balkans, the
revolt did not begin as a nationalist uprising of a people demanding
their independence. Rather, the principal complaint of the Greek popu-
lation of the island was centered on corruption and mismanagement by
Ottoman authorities. Once the news of protests became public, how-
ever, Greek nationalists called for the union of the island with main-
land Greece and began to recruit volunteers to join the battle against
Ottoman troops. As the conflict intensified, the Russian government
called on European powers to intervene and secure the separation of
Crete from the Ottoman Empire and its union with Greece. Cognizant
of the objectives of the Russian policy, the European states refused to
intervene. The failure of the Greek nationalists to mobilize European
support allowed the Porte to restore order and, by 1868, reestablish the
authority of the central government on the island, at least for a time.
It was neither the communal strife among the diverse Arabic-
speaking communities in Lebanon nor the uprising of Greek national-
ists in Crete that destroyed the territorial integrity of the Ottoman
Empire. Rather, it was the revolt of the Slavic subjects of the sultan,
backed by Russia, which ultimately ended Ottoman rule in southeast-
ern Europe. Acting as the centers of Pan-Slavic agitation, Serbia and
Montenegro provided support and inspiration to the protests against
Ottoman administrative mismanagement and corruption in neighbor-
ing Bosnia-Herzegovina, directing them toward a more nationalistic
and Pan-Slavist agenda. When Christian peasant uprisings erupted
against the predominantly Muslim landowning class in 1853, 1860–
1862, and 1875, Serbia and Montenegro supported the rebels and
fanned the flames of anti-Ottoman and anti-Muslim sentiments, hop-
ing to overthrow Ottoman rule and cleanse the area of Muslim pres-
ence and influence, thus creating a greater Serbian state.20 The threat
posed to Ottoman rule in Bosnia-Herzegovina was not, however, con-
fined to agitation from Russia and Serbia. Inside Bosnia, the old land-
owning families (former timar holders as well as former sip^ ahis and
janissaries), who had settled in the province after being forced out of
Hungary by the Habsburgs, exercised a great deal of power and influ-
ence. While they viewed themselves as the first line of defense against
From Tanzimat to Autocratic Modernization
Austrian southward expansionism, they also resented the centralizing
reforms of the men of Tanzimat, preferring a looser system that would
allow them to maximize the taxes they collected from peasant farmers
without the expectation of increasing their contribution to the central
treasury in Istanbul. Conflict was almost inevitable. Starting in 1850

with the arrival of Omer Paşa as the new governor, the Ottoman forces
embarked on a sustained drive to impose central government authority

over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Three years later, Omer Paşa attacked Mon-
tenegro in a successful campaign, which was brought to an end only af-
ter Austria intervened and delivered an ultimatum to the Porte.21 The
conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina erupted again in 1874 and 1875, allow-
ing Serbia and Montenegro to intervene and declare war on the Otto-
man state in 1876.
The era of Tanzimat was dominated by government officials who
had received their education and training at the translation bureau,
followed by service at Ottoman embassies in European capitals. Under
the leadership of Mustafa Reşid Paşa and his proteges Fuad Paşa and
Ali Paşa, the center of power shifted from the palace to the Porte, and
particularly the ministry of foreign affairs. With the death of Ali Paşa
in September 1871, the Tanzimat era came to an end. For the next
three years, six grand vezirs came and went as Sultan Abd€ ulaziz
became increasingly involved in running the everyday affairs of the
empire, thus introducing an element of chaos. Then, in the early
hours of Tuesday, May 30, 1876, a small group of officials and army
commanders led by the energetic and reform-minded statesman Mid-
hat Paşa, who had served as governor of Niş (1861–1868) and Bagh-
dad (1869–1872), carried out a peaceful military coup.22 A nephew of
Abd€ ulaziz, Prince Murad, was brought out of his residence to the min-
istry of war and declared the new sultan. The legality of the putsch
was provided by the şeyh€ ulisl^am, Hayrullah Effendi, whose fetva of
deposition justified the coup on the grounds of Abd€ ulaziz’s ‘‘mental
derangement, ignorance of political affairs, diversion of public reve-
nues to private expenditure, and conduct generally injurious to state
and community.’’23
Before the new sultan could establish himself, however, the news
of Abd€ ulaziz’s sudden death was announced to a shocked populace on
June 4. The body of the deposed sultan had been discovered in his pri-
vate bedroom, his wrists slashed with a pair of scissors, leading many
to conclude that he had been murdered. To diffuse the rumors of assas-
sination, the government called on doctors from several foreign embas-
sies in Istanbul to examine the body and offer their medical opinion
on the cause of death, which was officially declared a suicide. The
events profoundly affected the new sultan Murad, who suffered a
nervous breakdown. Accordingly, Midhat Paşa and his colleagues
decided to depose Murad in favor of his brother, who ascended the
Ottoman throne on August 31 as Abd€ ulhamid II. Meanwhile, Midhat
was appointed grand vezir on December 19, and four days later the
first Ottoman constitution was introduced by the new grand vezir.24
These momentous events took place in the context of major
developments in European power politics. In addition to another crisis
in the Balkans, which had erupted when Serbia and Montenegro
attacked the Ottoman Empire in July 1876, there was the slow-burning
issue of Ottoman–Russian affairs which ultimately included all the
powers of the day. For starters, the Franco-Prussian war, which began
in the summer 1870, had left a profound impact on the Russian policy
makers who viewed the Prussian victory and the emergence of a strong
and unified German state as a direct challenge to the Russian hegem-
ony in eastern Europe. Russian pride had not recovered from the
defeat in the Crimean War, which had forced the czar to relinquish his
control over southern Bessarabia and accept the demilitarization of the
Black Sea and the loss of its dominant role in the Slavic populated
lands of the Balkans such as Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria, all of
which had begun to intensify their agitation for a more aggressive and
interventionist Pan-Slavic foreign policy under Russia. In July 1875,
several uprisings erupted in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which the Ottoman
government failed to suppress, providing the justification for the Three
Emperor’s Alliance (Russia, Germany, and Austria) to intervene and
demand the implementation of fundamental reforms. The Ottomans
accepted the first reform proposal in December 1875, which was
rejected by the rebels. A second proposal submitted in May 1876 as
the Berlin Memorandum was rejected by the Porte. With chaos and
uncertainty reigning in Istanbul and the revolt and instability spread-
ing to the rural communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russia began to
push for military intervention by Serbia and Montenegro. This Pan-
Slavic project designed by Russia and implemented by Serbia failed
miserably, however, when Ottoman troops struck back, defeating the
Serbs and forcing them to sue for peace on July 24. Russia then insti-
gated a nationalist uprising in Bulgaria, which was crushed by Otto-
man forces with heavy casualties and massacres of the civilian
population, allowing Russia to demand that the Ottoman Empire intro-
duce reforms and grant autonomy to the Bulgarian people. Recogniz-
ing the threat of Russian intervention in the eastern Balkans, the
British government intervened and called for the convening of an inter-
national conference to meet in Istanbul with the intention of diffusing
the possibility of another war between Russia and the Ottoman
Empire. However, on the first day of the conference, December 23,
From Tanzimat to Autocratic Modernization
1876, the Ottoman delegation shocked the European participants by
announcing that a constitution had been promulgated and that any
attempt by European powers to pressure the Ottoman state to intro-
duce reforms in its European provinces were unnecessary because,
under the constitution, all Ottoman subjects would be treated as equals
with their rights protected and guaranteed by the new government.25
The Ottoman constitution did not, however, prevent another
military confrontation with Russia. Continuous palace intrigues con-
vinced Abd€ ulhamid to dismiss his prime minister, who was sent into
exile in February 1877, an event that was soon followed by a Russian
declaration of war on April 24. The Ottoman forces delayed the Rus-
sian southward incursion for several months at Plevna in Bulgaria, but
by December, the czarist army was encamped a mere twelve kilometers
outside Istanbul.26 On March 3, 1878, the Treaty of San Stefano was
signed between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Among other things,
it called for the establishment of an autonomous Bulgarian state,
stretching from the Black Sea to the Aegean, which Russia would
occupy for two years. Serbia, Romania, and Montenegro were also to
be recognized as independent states, while Russia received the districts
of Batumi, Kars, and Ardahan in eastern Anatolia. Additionally, the
Ottoman government was obliged to introduce fundamental reforms in
Thessaly and Armenia. But the rapid growth of Russian influence in
the Balkans and the Caucasus could not be tolerated by other Euro-
pean powers, forcing them to intervene. The Treaty of San Stefano was
nullified, and the European powers agreed to meet in Berlin at a new
congress designed to partition the European provinces of the Ottoman
Empire in such a way as to prevent the emergence of Russia as the
dominant power in the region.
The Congress of Berlin, which began in June 1878, was a turning
point in the history of the Ottoman Empire and southeast Europe.
When the Congress ended a month later, the Ottoman Empire was no
longer a political and military power in the Balkans.27 The Ottomans
lost 8 percent of their territory and 4.5 million of their population.28
The majority of those who left the empire were Christians, while tens
of thousands of Muslim refugees from the Balkans and the Caucasus
fled into the interior of the empire. The large Bulgarian state that had
been created at the Treaty of San Stefano was divided into three sepa-
rate entities.29 The region north of the Balkan Mountains and the area
around Sofia were combined into a new autonomous Bulgarian princi-
pality that would recognize the suzerainty of the sultan but for all prac-
tical purposes act as a Russian satellite. The region lying between the
Rhodope and Balkan Mountains, which corresponded with Eastern
Rumelia, was established as a semi-autonomous region under its own
Christian governor, who was to be appointed by the sultan and super-
vised by European powers.30 The third area of Thrace and Macedonia
remained under Ottoman rule.31 The Congress did not provide Greece
with any new territory. Instead the powers asked that Greece and the
Ottoman Empire enter into negotiations on establishing the future of
their boundaries, which also involved the status of Thessaly and Epi-
rus. Austria was granted the right to occupy and administer Bosnia-
Herzegovina as well as the sancak of Novi Pazar, a strip of land that
separated Serbia from Montenegro.32 Although the new territorial enti-
ties nominally remained part of the Ottoman Empire, all participants
in the Congress, including the Ottoman delegation, were fully aware
that they had been permanently lost.33
And more: while the Congress recognized Serbia, Romania, and
Montenegro as independent states, the Romanian state was forced to
hand southern Bessarabia to Russia and in return receive Dobrudja
and the Danube Delta.34 Russia also received the districts of Batumi,
Kars, and Ardahan, thereby establishing military control over the east-
ern shores of the Black Sea and an important strategic land bridge to
eastern Anatolia.35 The British received the island of Cyprus, which
contained a Greek majority and a Muslim Turkish minority popula-
tion. By handing Albanian populated areas and towns to Montenegro
and Greece, the European powers ignited a new nationalist movement
among a proud people who had faithfully served the Ottoman state on
many occasions in the past.36 Thus Albania, with its emerging national
movement, would replicate the model set by the Serbs, the Romanians,
and the Bulgarians and demand independence.
Although Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, and Bulgaria gained
their independence or autonomy in 1878, the Congress of Berlin left
the newly independent states dissatisfied and hungry for more terri-
tory. The Romanians were angry because they were forced to cede the
rich and productive Bessarabia in return for gaining the poor and less
productive Dobrudja. The Bulgarians were outraged because they lost
the greater Bulgarian state that had been created by the Treaty of San
Stefano. Serbia gained limited territory, but it did not satisfy the vora-
cious appetite of Serbian nationalists who dreamt of a greater Serbia
with access to the sea. Montenegro received a port on the Adriatic, but,
as in the case of Serbia, it did not get the towns and the districts it had
demanded. Of all the participants in the Congress, Russia was perhaps
the most frustrated. In return for its massive human and financial
investment in the war against the Ottoman Empire, it had only
received southern Bessarabia in the Balkans while the Austrians, who
had opportunistically sat on the sidelines, had been awarded Bosnia-
Herzegovina. These frustrated dreams turned the Balkan Peninsula
From Tanzimat to Autocratic Modernization
into a ticking bomb. By carving the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans
into small and hungry independent states, the European powers laid
the foundations for intense rivalries. Thirty-six years after the conclu-
sion of the Berlin Congress, the Balkan tinderbox, which had already
gone off twice in 1912 and 1913, exploded on June 28, 1914, when
Serb nationalists assassinated the Austrian crown prince Archduke
Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, sparking the First World War.
With the removal of the grand vezir Midhat Paşa, the center of
power began to shift back from the Porte to the Palace. Despite the
defeat at the hands of the Russians and the territorial losses imposed
by the Congress of Berlin, the new sultan, Abd€ ulhamid II, began his
reign as a highly energetic and intelligent monarch committed to the
reforms introduced during the Tanzimat period. Indeed, it was during
the reign of Abd€ ulhamid that a new and Western-educated officer
corps emerged. Ironically, the same officers would play an important
role in deposing the sultan in April 1909. In addition to military train-
ing, the reform-minded sultan expanded elementary and secondary
education (including the opening of a new school for girls in 1884),
introduced a modern medical school, and established the University of
Istanbul. To create a modern communication system for the empire, he
developed telegraph services and the Ottoman railway system, con-
necting Istanbul to the heartland of the Arab world as far south as the
holy city of Medina in Hijaz.37 The Hijaz railroad, which was com-
pleted in July 1908, was justified as a means of promoting Islamic
practices such as the hajj, or the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of
Mecca. But the new railway line also served the goal of centralizing
power in the hands of the sultan and his government, enabling the
state to send its troops to the Arab provinces in case of rebellion.
As with the reforms introduced by the Tanzimat, the principal
objective of Abd€ ulhamid’s modernization schemes was to establish a
strong centralized government capable of maintaining the territorial
integrity of the empire. In practical terms, this meant suppressing
uprisings among the sultan’s subjects and defending the state against
the expansionist and interventionist policies of European powers. De-
spite the sultan’s best efforts, however, the empire continued to lose
Building on their occupation of Algeria in 1830, the French
imposed their rule on Tunisia in May 1881. Never fully incorporated
into the Ottoman system, Tunisia was ruled by a bey who had become
increasingly dependent on financial assistance from European states.
His failure to pay his debts allowed European powers to intervene and
organize an International Debt Commission in 1869, which seized
control of Tunisia’s finances. Fearing Italian designs for an African
empire, France then moved in forces and established a protectorate
over the province. When the Ottoman government reminded the sig-
natories at the Congress of Berlin that they had promised to respect
the territorial integrity of the empire, none of the European powers
In imposing colonial rule over Tunisia, the French enjoyed the
support of the British, who were anxious to establish control over
Egypt, which had also suffered from mismanagement and indebtedness
to European powers. During the reigns of Khedive Said and Khedive
Ismail, the Egyptian government granted numerous concessions to Eu-
ropean banks and governments and received high interest loans to pay
for the expensive lifestyles of its rulers. These loans eventually forced
Egypt into bankruptcy, providing the European powers with an excuse
to intervene in the name of reorganizing the country’s finances. Euro-
pean states seized control over the collection of taxes by administering
custom houses and the railway system. When the resentment over Eu-
ropean imperial intervention triggered an uprising by a group of army
officers led by Ahmad Urabi Paşa in September 1881, Abd€ ulhamid
tried to intervene and negotiate a settlement by inviting Urabi Paşa to
the Ottoman capital. The sultan’s attempts failed when the arrival of
British ships resulted in bloody clashes between the Egyptians and
Europeans in Alexandria. The killing of European nationals in Alexan-
dria provided the convenient justification for the British navy to shell
the city and land troops on July 11, 1882. A few days later, they were
in Cairo. In September, the British defeated the nationalist forces at Tel
el-Kebir.38 The Ottoman government did not possess the political and
military capability to challenge the British. By 1885, the British and the
Ottomans had reached an agreement on the fiction of sultan’s suzer-
ainty over Egypt, and an Ottoman and a British commissioner were
assigned responsibility to advise the Khedive. Regardless of these for-
mal arrangements, however, it was the British who were now the true
masters of Egypt, a country they would dominate for the next seventy
While Tunisia and Egypt were seized by France and Great Britain,
the Ottoman Empire was also losing territory in the Balkans. After the
Congress of Berlin, the only territory left under Ottoman rule was
a relatively narrow corridor south of the Balkan Mountains that
stretched from the Black Sea in the east to the Adriatic in the west,
incorporating Thrace, Thessaly, Macedonia, and Albania.39 Greece,
Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria coveted the remaining territory of
the dying Ottoman Empire. In accordance with the promises made at
the Congress of Berlin, the Ottomans handed much of Thessaly and a
district in Epirus to Greece in July 1881. Despite these new gains,
From Tanzimat to Autocratic Modernization
Greece continued to push for additional territorial concessions, includ-
ing the island of Crete.
The rise of Bulgarian nationalism in East Rumelia, which had also
been created at the Congress of Berlin, began to cause serious anxiety
in Istanbul. From the time of its demarcation, the province of East
Rumelia was denounced by local nationalists as a conspiracy to pre-
vent the emergence of a strong and unified Bulgarian state. Having
used Russia to gain their independence, the Bulgarians were deter-
mined to remove Russian influence and create a larger and stronger
state by staging a unionist revolt in East Rumelia. In September 1885,
nationalists in East Rumelia called for the unification of their province
with Bulgaria and invited Prince Alexander to assume leadership. The
prince, who had promised the Russian government that he would not
advocate unification, was caught in a terrible dilemma.40 On one hand,
he did not wish to alienate his Russian allies. On the other, if he did
not assume leadership of the unification movement, he could be
deposed by the nationalists.41 Ultimately, he threw in his lot with the
Bulgarian nationalists. Like Russia, the Ottoman Empire was outraged.
After all, East Rumelia had been created by the European powers at the
Congress of Berlin. The province had accepted the suzerainty of the
sultan, paying much of its taxes to the central treasury in Istanbul. Sul-
tan Abd€ ulhamid, who could have intervened, rejected the idea of mili-
tary action and pinned his hopes on the European powers preserving
the territorial integrity of his empire. The Russian czar also expressed
his opposition.42 But the British, who were initially opposed to the
unification of Bulgaria and East Rumelia, switched their position. As
long as the Bulgarians had acted as the puppets of Russia, the British
opposed unification, believing that a Russian-dominated Bulgaria
could be used by the czar as a land bridge to invade and conquer Istan-
bul. But with Prince Alexander acting as an independent monarch and
refusing to collaborate with Russian imperial designs, the British were
pleased to support the emergence of a strong Bulgaria that would act
as a bulwark against Russian expansionism in the Balkans.43 While the
debate raged among European powers, Serbia sent its troops to prevent
the unification of the two Bulgarias. In response, the Bulgarians joined
forces and fought the invading Serbian army, defeating it in November
1885 and forcing the powers to recognize the unification of East Rume-
lia.44 After Prince Alexander abdicated in 1886, a German prince, Fer-
dinand of Saxe-Coburg, was chosen in 1887 as the new ruler of
Bulgaria.45 Initially, the new monarch ruled with strong support from
prominent nationalists but soon realized that as long as he was identi-
fied with their cause, he could not gain Russian support or achieve his
ultimate dream of a greater Bulgaria that would include Macedonia.46
As the Ottoman Empire disintegrated in the Balkans, the Alba-
nians, who had historically remained loyal to the sultan, began to
organize their own national movement as a means of protecting their
communities from encroachments by their Greek and Slavic neighbors.
In the earlier part of the nineteenth century, Albania had been divided
between two paşaliks, who enjoyed a great deal of autonomy from
Istanbul. Ali Paşa of Janina and the Buşati family of Shkod€er had domi-
nated Albanian politics for decades. In 1820, Mahmud II, who was
determined to impose the authority of the central government, dis-
missed Ali Paşa and attacked his territory. Ironically, the suppression of
Ali Paşa, who was killed by Ottoman agents in 1822, allowed Greek
nationalists to stage their revolution against the Ottoman Empire. Fol-
lowing Ali Paşa’s demise, the government then turned against the head
of the Buşati family, Mustafa Paşa, and the beys and a gas who sup-
ported him. After suffering defeat at the hands of Ottoman forces, Mus-
tafa Paşa accepted his fate and settled in Istanbul where he lived the
rest of his life as a loyal servant of the sultan.47
The establishment of direct Ottoman rule allowed the govern-
ment to introduce a series of reforms. The principal objective of these
reforms was to remove the intermediary class of notables and replace it
with a new administrative organization run by officials sent from Istan-
bul. The Porte also intended to bring the local landowners who had
converted the old timars into privately owned estates under its control
and create a more efficient tax collection system, which would increase
revenue. The central government also wished to establish a new
recruitment system, which would provide troops for a new military
force. In implementing this ambitious agenda, the sultan abolished the
timars in 1832 and created two ey^ alets of Janina and Rumelia, which
were reorganized into the three vil^ ayets of Janina, Shkod€er, and Bitola
in 1865.48 These reforms were vehemently opposed by the notables,
who preferred being ruled by their own local beys. But it was the
inability of the central government to protect Albanian communities
from Greece, Serbia, and Montenegro that forced the Albanians to
organize their own independent national movement.
The Ottoman defeat at the hands of the Russians in 1878 and the
Treaty of San Stefano, which rewarded Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulga-
ria with Albanian populated areas, marked the beginning of a transfor-
mation in the relationship between Albania and the central
government in Istanbul. Until 1878, the Ottoman government, which
viewed the Albanians as members of the Muslim community, had not
treated them as a separate national group. Muslim Albanians who
attended school studied Arabic, the language of the holy Quran, and
Turkish, the language of the government and the army. Christian
From Tanzimat to Autocratic Modernization
Albanians, on the other hand, were viewed as members of the Chris-
tian Orthodox millet who studied Greek as the principal language of
their religious community.49 In response to the signing of the Treaty of
San Stefano, a group of prominent Albanian leaders organized a secret
committee in Istanbul and called for a larger gathering at Prizren in
June 1878.
Determined to transcend their religious and regional differen-
ces, the meeting at Prizren brought together Muslim and Christian
Albanians who agreed to create the League of Prizren, which enjoyed
the authority to collect taxes and organize an army.50 The League also
sent an appeal to the European powers participating in the Congress
of Berlin, which was ignored.51 With Serbia and Montenegro emerg-
ing as independent states, the Ottoman government was forced to
begin negotiations on the delineations of its new borders with the
two countries. Since several towns and districts, such as Bar, Podgor-
ica, and Plav that were handed to Montenegro had a significant Alba-
nian population, the League of Prizren turned to resistance. The
Ottoman government was caught in a dilemma. It had to abide by the
terms of the Berlin Congress, but it was also determined to benefit
from Albanian resistance and use it as a means of reducing its territo-
rial losses.52
With arms from the Ottoman government, the Albanians resisted
the occupation, forcing the European powers to recognize and respect
the power of the newly emerging nationalist movement. Realizing the
intensity of Albanian national sentiments and the potential for erup-
tion of ethnic conflicts, the European powers reversed their position
and agreed to allow Plav and Gusinje to remain within the Ottoman
Empire. Instead, they offered a port, namely Ulcingi (Dulcigno), to
Montenegro.53 Nor was the Albanian resistance confined to the towns
and districts that were handed to Montenegro. There was also a very
strong opposition to handing any Albanian territory to Greece. The
Albanian resistance against Greek occupation of Epirus bore positive
results. The European powers agreed in the spring of 1881 that, aside
from Thessaly, the Greeks would only receive the district of Arta in
Epirus. Despite the successes of the Albanian resistance and the sup-
port it enjoyed from the Ottoman government, the sultan remained
bound by provisions of the agreement to hand Ulcinji to Montenegro,
even if it meant crushing the Albanian League. An Ottoman army was,
therefore, dispatched to occupy Prizren, which fell in April 1881.54
Another Ottoman force routed the Albanian resistance at Ulcinji before
the town was handed to Montenegro. Despite its suppression, the
League of Prizren had accomplished a great deal. European powers
had recognized that Albanian lands could not be partitioned among
their Balkan allies without serious repercussions and resistance from
the local population.55
After Bulgaria received East Rumelia in 1885, Greece, which had
seized Thessaly and parts of Epirus, tried to counter the rise of a
stronger and more unified Bulgaria by occupying the rest of Epirus.
As with the Serbs and the Bulgarians, the Greeks were also deter-
mined to incorporate Macedonia into their territory. The control of
Macedonia could decide which of the three states would emerge as
the most powerful nation in the Balkans. To appease nationalistic sen-
timents and to compensate for the failure to capture Macedonia, the
Greek government began to agitate for an anti-Ottoman uprising in
Crete. The island, which had remained under Egyptian occupation
from the early 1820s, had been returned to the sultan in 1840. In
1878, the Ottoman government agreed to the formation of an assem-
bly that would be led by the Christian leaders of the island. However,
clashes between the Christian and Muslim communities convinced
the sultan to disband the assembly and send Muslim governors to run
the island. In 1894, the Ethnike Hetairia (The National Society),
which had a significant following within the Greek army, became
actively involved in organizing a mass uprising aimed at unifying the
island with Greece. The Cretan revolt finally broke out in 1896, pro-
viding the justification for the Greek government to send a fifteen-
hundred–man army to the island. In the clashes that followed many
civilians on both sides were killed. Building on nationalistic feelings
that had erupted throughout the country, the Greek government or-
dered its army to attack Ottoman territory in April 1897. To the sur-
prise of many, however, the Ottoman forces pushed back the Greek
army, capturing sizable territory in Thessaly and forcing Athens to sue
for peace and to pay a war indemnity of a hundred million francs. A
peace treaty signed on December 4 ended hostilities.56 Remarkably, it
was Greece that emerged as the victor in Crete. Under pressure from
European powers, the sultan agreed to the creation of an autonomous
government for the island, along with a high commissioner, Prince
George, the second son of the Greek monarch.57 In 1913, Crete was
finally unified with Greece.
But of all the Ottoman provinces to demand the attention of the
sultan, none was as challenging as Macedonia. With a mixed popula-
tion that included Bulgarians, Greeks, Vlachs, Jews, Serbs, and Mus-
lims, the province emerged as the breeding ground for contending
nationalist movements financed and armed by different neighboring
states. Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia in particular were determined to
incorporate Macedonia by any means.58 Historians and linguists were
mobilized to weave ‘‘scientific’’ and ‘‘scholarly’’ justifications for these
From Tanzimat to Autocratic Modernization
romantic and nationalistic claims. Bulgarian scholars emphasized the
close linguistic ties between the Slavic population of Macedonia and
the Bulgarian people. The Greeks utilized the religious commonalities
by arguing that any Christian who followed the ‘‘ecumenical patriarch
was Greek.’’59 Finally, the Serbs used common festivals and ceremo-
nies to assert that Macedonians were in reality a branch of the Serbian
While the scholars were busy manufacturing new identities, the
politicians in various Balkan countries were engaged in organizing po-
litical movements and terrorist organizations, which would fight in the
name of unifying Macedonia with either Bulgaria or Serbia or Greece.61
There were pro-Bulgaria, pro-Serbia, and pro-Greece organizations,
which used churches, schools, and at times, terrorism, to advance their
cause. From 1900 onward, as these political and paramilitary groups
intensified their activities, Macedonia was ravaged by internal strife, vi-
olence, and bloodshed, forcing many Macedonians (including thou-
sands of Muslims) to flee their homes and seek refuge in Istanbul and
other more secure cities. As in previous cases, European powers, par-
ticularly Russia and Austria, used the instability created by some of
their own allies as a pretext to intervene, and in October 1903, the two
powers proposed their own reform program that called for an Ottoman
inspector to be joined by Russian and Austrian advisers who would
respond to the complaints filed by various Christian communities in
Macedonia. The sultan was also asked to provide financial assistance
to those who had lost their homes and farms during the civil strife.
The Ottoman government was also responsible for the creation of
mixed Muslim and Christian courts in the districts where the two com-
munities lived side by side. The reform proposal was accepted grudg-
ingly by the sultan, who wished to do anything to avoid military
intervention by European powers. The Greeks and Vlachs, however,
denounced the program as favoring the Slavs and discriminating
against them. While pro-Bulgaria groups continued with their attacks,
the Greek-backed organizations emerged as the most active in Macedo-
nia. As Europe began to slide toward the First World War, Macedonia
remained a tinderbox where the resurgence of nationalistic rivalries
could ignite a civil war.
Despite the military disasters and territorial losses that the empire
suffered, the reign of Abd€ ulhamid proved to be a period of significant
social, economic, and cultural transformation. The autocratic sultan
continued with the reforms that had been introduced by the men of
Tanzimat. There was, however, a fundamental difference. The states-
men of the Tanzimat had begun their governmental careers as transla-
tors and diplomats attached to Ottoman embassies in Europe, and thus
wished to emulate European customs and institutions. Abd€ ulhamid, in
contrast, may have been a modernizer, but one who believed strongly
in preserving the Islamic identity of the Ottoman state. With the loss
of its European provinces, the number of Christian subjects of the sul-
tan decreased and Muslims began to emerge as the majority popula-
tion.62 The Muslim population was not only loyal to the sultan, but
also felt a deep anger toward the sultan’s Christian subjects for allying
themselves with the imperial powers of Europe in order to gain their
independence. Abd€ ulhamid understood the new mood among his
Muslim subjects and appealed to Pan-Islamism, or the unity of all Mus-
lims under his leadership as the caliph of the Islamic world, to counter
European imperial designs.
Within the Ottoman Empire, Pan-Islamic ideas can be traced
back to 1774, when the Ottomans first used Islam as a political and
ideological weapon not only to counter the threat posed by Europe,
but also to secure their religious and cultural influence in the Muslim
populated Crimea.63 The loss of Crimea, which they had ceded to
Czarist Russia after suffering defeat in the Russo-Ottoman war of
1768–1774, did not deter the Ottomans from trying to preserve their
historical and religious ties with the Muslim and Turkic-speaking Tatar
population. In the absence of Turkish nationalistic feelings, which
were alien to their political and cultural thinking, the Ottomans
appealed to Islam and revived the idea of the caliphate, maintaining
that the Ottoman sultan was not only the ruler of his own domain, but
also the religious and spiritual leader of the entire Islamic world.64
Thus, in the Treaty of K€ uç€
uk Kaynarca, signed in 1774 after the conclu-
sion of the war with Russia, the sultan claimed the title of caliph of all
Muslims and the religious representative of the Crimean Tatars.65 In
order to strengthen their claim to the caliphate, the Ottomans also
manufactured the myth that the last Abbasid caliph, who lived in Cairo
at the time when Selim I conquered Egypt, had passed the title and the
insignia of the caliphate to the family of Osman.66
During the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire lost most of
its European and North African provinces as a result of nationalist
uprisings or direct military and diplomatic interventions by European
powers. But the Ottoman Empire was not the only Islamic state to lose
vast territories. The first half of the nineteenth century also witnessed
the victory of the Russian empire over the Qajar dynasty in Iran and
the occupation of the Caucasus by the czarist state, while the second
half of the century saw the colonization of Muslim-populated Central
Asia by Russian forces.67
As a result of military defeats suffered at the hands of Euro-
pean powers, the loss of vast territories, and the decline of political
From Tanzimat to Autocratic Modernization
and economic power and prestige, a new sense of Ottoman patriot-
ism began to emerge in the last decade of the Tanzimat period. The
first to advocate Islamic unity were the Young Ottomans, a group of
Muslim intellectuals, who believed that the modernization of the
Ottoman state was the principal means through which the empire’s
independence and territorial integrity could be preserved.68 Con-
cerned with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, humiliated
by the inability of the state to defend itself against foreign aggres-
sion, and inspired by the unification of Germany and Italy, the
Young Ottomans believed it was necessary to modernize the politi-
cal, military, and economic institutions of the empire. At the same
time, they agreed on the need to retain their society’s basic Islamic
characteristics.69 For the Young Ottomans, it was necessary that the
Ottoman state not only introduce modern political institutions such
as a parliament, but also assume a leading role in unifying and
guiding the rest of the Islamic world as it struggled to maintain its
The Pan-Islamic ideas of the Young Ottomans were most prob-
ably responsible for the introduction of the third article of the Otto-
man constitution of 1876, which referred to the sultan as the caliph
of the Islamic world.70 Starting with the reign of Abd€ ulhamid II,
Pan-Islamism began to play a significant role in shaping the ideol-
ogy and the foreign policy of the Ottoman state.71 After all, the Rus-
sian czar used the defense and protection of the sultan’s Orthodox
Christian subjects to promote Pan-Slavism and justify his interven-
tion in the internal affairs of the Ottoman state. Likewise, the sultan
could use the protection of Muslims in Russia and British India to
justify Pan-Islamism and legitimize interventions in regions under
Czarist or British control. It was also during the reign of Abd€ ulha-
mid II that Sayyid Jamal ud-Din Afghani (al-Afghani or Assadabadi),
the Iranian-born Shia Muslim activist and revolutionary, arrived in
Istanbul to propagate Islamic unity under the leadership of the
sultan as the caliph of all Muslims.72 Having recognized the
threat posed by Russia, Great Britain, and France to the security and
the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, Abd€ ulhamid also
adopted a closer relationship with Germany, seeking the support of
the Kaiser to modernize and centralize the Ottoman state. When the
Ottomans began to build a railway system, which would connect the
capital to Anatolia and the Arab Middle East, the sultan awarded
the contract to the German government. Although he established
closer ties with Germany, the intelligent and shrewd sultan main-
tained friendly relations with all European powers, ‘‘without forming
an alliance with any of them.’’73

1. Roderic H. Davison, Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 1856–1876
(New York: Gordian Press, 1973), 36. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 50–1.
2. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 447. Quataert, The Ottoman Empire, 66.
3. Davison, Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 36–8.
4. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 297.
5. Ibid., 296–7. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:59–61.
Z€urcher, Turkey, 50–1.
6. Somel, Historical Dictionary of the Ottoman Empire, 289.
7. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 297. Shaw, History of the Ottoman
Empire, 2:55.
8. Ibid.
9. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 62.
10. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 299.
11. See Carter V. Findley, Bureaucratic Reform in the Ottoman Empire:
the Sublime Porte 1789–1922 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980).
Karpat, ‘‘Comments on Contributions and the Borderlands,’’ 11.
12. Reşat Kasaba, The Ottoman Empire and the World Economy: The
Nineteenth Century (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988), 50.
13. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 52.
14. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:133–4.
15. Ibid.
16. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 456–8.
17. Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 107.
18. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 54. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:140–1.
19. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:143. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 55.
20. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 56.
21. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 252.
22. Davison, Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 335–38. Roderic H. Davi-
son, Nineteenth Century Ottoman Diplomacy and Reforms (Istanbul: Isis Press,
1999), 99–100.
23. Ibid., 336.
24. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 304.
25. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 74.
26. Ibid.
27. See Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, 1:189–91.
28. Kemal H. Karpat, Ottoman Population 1830–1914: Demographic and
Social Characteristics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), 28.
Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 491. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:191.
Shaw writes that ‘‘the Ottoman Empire was forced to give up two-fifths of
its entire territory and one-fifth of its population, about 5.5 million people,
of whom almost half were Muslims.’’
29. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:190–1.
From Tanzimat to Autocratic Modernization
30. Ibid., 2:191.
31. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 360.
32. Ibid.
33. Ibid., 361.
34. Ibid., 360. Z€urcher, Turkey, 75.
35. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, 1:190.
36. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 361–6.
37. Z€urcher, Turkey, 77. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:226–30.
38. P. M. Holt, ‘‘The Later Ottoman Empire in Egypt and the Fertile
Crescent’’ in The Cambridge History of Islam, 1:388.
39. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:195.
40. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 370.
41. Ibid.
42. Ibid.
43. Ibid., 371.
44. Ibid.
45. Ibid., 372.
46. Ibid., 372–3.
47. Ibid., 362.
48. Ibid., 362–3.
49. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:199–200.
50. Ibid., 199. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 363–4.
51. Jelavich, History of the Balkans, 364.
52. Ibid., 364–5.
53. Ibid., 365.
54. Ibid., 366.
55. Ibid.
56. Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 175.
57. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:207.
58. Ibid., 2:208.
59. Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 208.
60. Ibid.
61. Ibid.
62. Donald Quataert, ‘‘Age of Reforms, 1812–1914’’ in An Economic
and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, Halil Inalcik with Donald Qua-
taert, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 1:782–4.
63. Mehrdad Kia, ‘‘Pan-Islamism in Late Nineteenth Century Iran’’,
Middle Eastern Studies 32:1 (1996), 30.
64. Ibid.
65. Ibid. See Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, 1:54–61.
66. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 1:85.
67. Kia, ‘‘Pan-Islamism in Late Nineteenth Century Iran,’’ 31.
68. See Şerif Mardin, The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1962).
69. See Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age: 1798–1939
(London: Oxford University Press, 1962), 103–7. Bernard Lewis, ‘‘The Otto-
man Empire in the Mid-Nineteenth Century: A Review,’’ Middle Eastern
Studies, vol. 1, No. 3 (April, 1965). Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Mod-
ern Turkey (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), 138–9. Shaw, History
of the Ottoman Empire, 2:130–1.
70. Robert G. Landen, The Emergence of the Modern Middle East (New
York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1970), 99. Lewis, The Emergence of Modern
Turkey, 336.
71. Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, 342–3. Shaw, History of
the Ottoman Empire, 2:157–8, 259–60.
72. See Elie Kedourie, Afghani and Abduh: An Essay on Religious Unbe-
lief and Political Activism in Modern Islam (London: The Humanities Press,
1966). Nikkie R. Keddie, An Islamic Response to Imperialism: Political and
Religious Writings of Sayyid Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani (Los Angeles: University
of California Press, 1968). Nikkie R. Keddie, Sayyid Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani
(Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1972).
73. Hale, Turkish Foreign Policy, 31.


Despite his attempt to modernize the Ottoman state, Abd€ ulhamid
could not neutralize the opposition of the secular-minded intelligentsia
and young army officers who opposed his autocratic rule and Islamic
ideology. In a government where power was the monopoly of the mon-
arch and a small clique of tradition-minded government officials, the
members of the modern educated class, who served in the army and
the bureaucracy, felt excluded and marginalized. On May 21, 1889, a
small group of students at the army medical school organized the
_ ad-i Osm^
Ittih^ ani Cemiyeti (Ottoman Unity Society), which became the
_ ad ve Terakki Cemiyeti or Committee of Union and
nucleus of the Ittih^
Progress (CUP), a secret society that would lead the movement to
restore the constitution for the next two decades.1 The unity referred
to the unity of all ethnic, linguistic, and religious groupings under a
constitutional system of government, which would save the empire
from further disintegration by allowing all citizens of the Ottoman
state to be included in a political system that granted them equal rights
and legal protections. By 1896, CUP, which recruited primarily the
young, urban, and educated civil servants, army officers, teachers, and
students, had accumulated sufficient organizational strength to plan a
coup against Abd€ ulhamid.2 The plot was, however, discovered and
smashed by the sultan’s secret police. While many were arrested and
sent to the remote corners of the empire, some managed to flee to
European countries, particularly France and Switzerland, where they
joined the anti-government intellectuals who were already publishing
newspapers that were critical of the sultan and his regime. Thus,
the opposition that was neutralized inside the empire found a voice in
the emigre community in Europe. The leaders of the movement that
came to be called the Young Turks believed in the restoration of the
1876 constitution and insisted that the preservation of the empire
depended on guaranteeing equal rights for all subjects of the Ottoman
state. As with the Young Ottomans of the 1860s and 1870s, the Young
Turks believed that the establishment of a constitutional government
would neutralize the national aspirations of the non-Turkish minor-
ities, allowing them to identify themselves as members of the larger
Ottoman family.3 They had concluded that the alienation of the
Christian subjects of the sultan was caused by the absence of political
rights and corrupt administrative practices. If the Ottoman govern-
ment provided constitutional rights to its citizens and eliminated
corruption, then the empire could be saved.4 Beyond these commonly
shared principles, however, a great deal of divergence and conflict
existed within the movement. Indeed, the Young Turk movement in
Europe was internally fragmented. One wing was led by Ahmed Riza, a
former civil servant who emerged as the most prominent Young Turk
leader after he fled to France in 1889.5 A devout follower of the French
thinker Auguste Comte (1798–1857) and his positivist philosophy,
Ahmed Riza, who published the newspaper Meşveret (Consultation),
was an ardent materialist, scientist, and atheist who refused to appeal
to popular religious sentiments as a means of organizing the masses
against the sultan.6 One rival was Murad Bey, the publisher of the anti-
government newspaper Mizan (Balance) and the head of the Geneva
branch of Young Turks, who challenged Ahmed Riza’s leadership and
emphasized the need to preserve the movement’s Islamic identity. Fur-
thermore, as an Ottoman nationalist, Ahmed Riza believed in a strong
centralized state and rejected the idea of foreign intervention as the
means of removing Abd€ ulhamid from the throne, while another faction
within CUP, led by Prince Sabaheddin (Sabaheddin Bey), advocated a
decentralized form of government and agreed with the Armenian fac-
tion within CUP that foreign intervention could be used as a legitimate
means to overthrow the sultan’s autocratic rule.7
In 1905 and 1906, the opposition reorganized itself, particularly
in Salonica where a secret organization managed to recruit a significant
number of army officers stationed in the Balkans and particularly in
the tinderbox of Macedonia.8 In sharp contrast to the liberal-minded
Young Turk leaders in Europe, many of the young army officers who
joined the opposition came from the Balkans, where they had experi-
enced first-hand the disintegration of the empire. Many were the chil-
dren of the Ottoman borderlands where they had lived or served as
The Young Turk Revolution and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire
members of the Muslim minority side by side with non-Turkish, non-
Muslim communities and had witnessed how the Christian subjects of
the sultan had revolted successfully against the Ottoman Empire with
the financial and military support of European powers. Any illusion
that the Christian communities of the empire wished to live side by
side with the Muslim subjects of the sultan and remain loyal to the
authority of the Ottoman state had evaporated in front of their eyes.
Revolution came unexpectedly from Macedonia in July 1908,
when army officers loyal to CUP revolted, demanding the restoration
of the 1876 constitution.9 After a faint effort to suppress the rebellion,
Abd€ ulhamid concluded that resistance was futile. On July 23 he
restored constitutional rule and ordered parliamentary elections.10 As
the news of revolution spread, massive celebrations erupted, particu-
larly in Istanbul, where Turks, Jews, Armenians, and Arabs joined
hands and embraced in the streets of the capital.11 Among the deputies
in the new parliament, which opened on December 17, there were 142
Turks, 60 Arabs, 25 Albanians, 23 Greeks, 12 Armenians, 5 Jews, 4
Bulgarians, 3 Serbs, and one Romanian.12 Although the Young Turk
movement had aimed at ending the autocratic rule of Abd€ ulhamid, the
sultan was not removed from the throne. The leaders of CUP were well
aware that the autocratic monarch enjoyed enormous popularity
among the Muslim masses, particularly in rural Anatolia, and his
removal would alienate the religious classes in Istanbul and other cities.
The Young Turks had convinced themselves that the restoration
of the parliamentary regime would secure the support of European
powers for the preservation of the territorial integrity of the Ottoman
Empire.13 They were wrong. Shortly after the victory of the revolution,
the Austro-Hungarian Empire formally annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina,
which had maintained its nominal affiliation with the empire by
accepting the suzerainty of the sultan.14 Greece annexed the island of
Crete, while Bulgaria unified with Eastern Rumelia, which had
remained an autonomous province under the nominal rule of the
Ottoman sultan.15
Aside from Abd€ ulhamid and his supporters, the new constitu-
tional regime had other formidable opponents. Prince Sabaheddin and
his liberal pro-British faction opposed the more authoritarian and mili-
taristic elements in the CUP, who advocated centralization of power.
The urban religious classes such as şeyhs and dervişes, as well as stu-
dents from religious schools, viewed the leadership of CUP as secular
atheists who were trying to limit the power of the sultan/caliph by
introducing alien European rules and laws, thereby undermining the
Şeriat or the legal code of Islam. On April 12, 1909, several army divi-
sions, which had been brought recently from Macedonia to Istanbul,
rose in rebellion and were joined by students from religious schools.16
The demonstrators marched to the parliament, where they demanded
the dismissal of the grand vezir and the president of the chamber of
deputies, Ahmed Riza. They also called on the government to replace a
number of CUP officers and banish several deputies from Istanbul.
Finally, they called for the restoration of Şeriat and asked for amnesty
for the troops who had mutinied.17 The government in Istanbul pan-
icked, unsure how to respond. Every effort had to be made to avoid
bloodshed and infighting between pro- and anti-CUP army units. By
April 15, the troops loyal to the CUP, particularly those stationed in
Macedonia and led by Mahmud Şevket Paşa, and primarily Albanian
units headed by Niyazi Bey, struck back and began to march toward
the capital using the Ottoman railway system to transport their troops.
Despite a last-ditch effort by the government to delay their entry into
the capital, the pro-CUP divisions entered Istanbul without confront-
ing any armed resistance. On April 27, the two chambers of parliament
deposed Abd€ ulhamid and replaced him with his younger brother, who
ascended the throne as Mehmed V.18 A new era in Ottoman politics
had been inaugurated. The center of power had shifted once again, this
time from the palace to the army, the bureaucracy, and the parliament.
There were other political transformations, too. Although CUP
dominated both the government and the parliament, it was the Otto-
man army that emerged as the most powerful institution within the
state. Neither the cabinet nor CUP and the parliament could challenge
the power of the army and its commander, Mahmud Şevkat Paşa, who
had saved them from political extinction.19 The army allowed CUP to
dominate the legislative branch and introduce new laws that signifi-
cantly cut the budget for the palace and restricted the power of the sul-
tan by granting him only the right to appoint the grand vezir and the
am. In return, CUP let the army do what it wanted as it under-
took the purging of the senior commanders and officers who had
served Abd€ ulhamid.20 The growing power of junior officers who were
rising in rank and their interference in the political life of the empire
allowed the opposition to reorganize. Initially, the army and CUP did
not prevent the creation of new political parties, including the Otto-
man Socialist Party. However, as the new parties coalesced into a uni-
fied opposition, the army and CUP felt compelled to act. The Albanian
uprising, which began on April 1, 1910, and the assassination of the in-
fluential journalist Ahmed Samim, who had criticized CUP, on June
10, energized the opposition parties. In October 1911 Italy invaded
Libya by landing troops in Tripoli and Benghazi.21 The grand vezir and
his cabinet were forced to resign as the opposition forces unified in a
coalition, which included both conservative and liberal parties. CUP
The Young Turk Revolution and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire
responded by dissolving the parliament and calling for new elections.
Massive fraud and intimidation allowed CUP to win the majority of
seats in the new parliament.22 Despite the convening of the new CUP-
dominated parliament, the political situation continued to deteriorate.
The central government was so weak that it failed to respond effec-
tively to growing unrest in Albania, the uprising of Imam Yahya in
Yemen, and the Italian invasion and occupation of Libya.23 To their
credit, a group of Ottoman officers affiliated with CUP and under the
leadership of Major Enver (later Enver Paşa) rushed to Libya and
organized a defense with assistance from the Sanusiya religious order
against the Italian occupiers. An Italian attack on the Dardanelles and
the occupation of the Dodecanese islands in May 1912, however,
forced the Ottoman government to sue for peace.24
The Italian victory emboldened the neighboring Balkan states,
which had been waiting for an opportunity to invade and occupy the
remaining Ottoman provinces in Europe. After series of negotiations,
Serbia and Bulgaria formed an alliance in March 1912.25 Shortly after,
in May, Bulgaria signed a similar agreement with Greece.26 Finally, in
October, Serbia and Montenegro formed an alliance.27 Using the impe-
rial rhetoric of European powers, the four Balkan states demanded the
implementation of fundamental reforms in Macedonia, knowing full
well that they were weaving a convenient justification for their joint
invasion of Ottoman territory.28 On October 8, the Balkan states
dropped their pretense and declared war. The Bulgarians soon defeated
the Ottomans at the battles of Kirklareli/Kirkkilise (October 22–24)
and L€ uleburgaz (October 22–November 2), followed by a Serbian vic-
tory at the battle of Kumanovo (October 23–24).29 Meanwhile, the
Greeks captured Salonica on November 8. Without a coordinated plan,
and in the absence of a unified command, the Ottomans were forced
either to retreat or to take defensive positions. The major urban centers
of the empire in Europe (Edirne, Janina, and Shkod€er) were sur-
rounded by the invading Balkan armies. By December, the Ottoman
government sued for peace. As the discussions dragged on in London,
Bulgaria demanded the city of Edirne. This was too much for a group
of young officers in Istanbul, who staged a military coup on January
23, 1913, killing the minister of war and forcing the grand vezir to re-
sign. The former commander of the army, Mahmud Şevket Paşa,
assumed the post of grand vezir and the minister of war.30 When the
news of the coup in Istanbul reached London, the Balkan states
resumed their military campaigns. Despite a promise to adopt an offen-
sive posture, the new government in Istanbul failed to repulse the
Bulgarian forces, who captured Edirne on March 28, and the Serbs,
who seized Shkod€er on April 22. On May 30, the Ottoman government
was forced to sign the Treaty of London, which resulted in the loss of
much of its territory in Europe, including the city of Edirne. Disaster
seemed to be complete with the murder of the new grand vezir, Mah-
mud Şevket Paşa, on June 11.
Fortunately for the Ottomans, intense rivalries and jealousies
among the Balkan states erupted shortly after the signing of the Treaty
of London. Romania, which had not participated in the war, demanded
territory from Bulgaria. The Greeks and Serbs also expressed dissatis-
faction with the division of territory in Macedonia. As the negotiations
for the creation of an anti-Bulgarian alliance began, Bulgaria attacked
Serbia, which ignited a new Balkan war between the victors of the first.
The Ottomans used the opportunity to recapture Edirne under the
leadership of Enver, forcing Bulgaria to sign the Treaty of Constantino-
ple on September 29, 1913.31
The military coup of January 1913 brought the government under
the control of CUP, which soon began suppressing the activities of
opposition parties with arrests and death sentences. As CUP began to
consolidate its power over the organs of the state, a triumvirate com-
prising Cemal Paşa, Enver Paşa, and Talat Paşa began to rule the
empire with the support of an inner circle, which represented the vari-
ous factions within CUP. With the clouds of war gathering over
Europe, the beleaguered Ottoman government appraised its various
options, none of which looked very promising, given the predatory na-
ture of European powers. Then, on August 2, 1914 the Ottoman
Empire signed a secret treaty of alliance with Germany. According to
this treaty, the Ottoman Empire and Germany agreed ‘‘to observe strict
neutrality’’ in the ‘‘conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.’’32
However, ‘‘in the event that Russia should intervene with active mili-
tary measures and thus should’’ pose a threat to Germany, this threat
‘‘would also come into force for Turkey.’’33 In the case of a threat or a
war, Germany committed itself to defending the Ottoman Empire by
‘‘force of arms.’’34 The decision to enter the war on the side of Germany
and the Austro-Hungarian Empire brought the Ottoman state into
open military confrontation with France, Czarist Russia, and the Brit-
ish Empire, which used the hostilities to terminate the nominal suzer-
ainty of the Ottoman Empire over Egypt, depose the Khedive Abbas
Hilmi II, and establish a protectorate over the country on December
18, 1914.35 The British also annexed the island of Cyprus and
occupied Basra in southern Iraq.
Nor was this the worst. In the Constantinople Agreement of
1915, the three Entente powers agreed to the complete partition of the
Ottoman Empire after the end of the war.36 The Allied expectation that
the ‘‘sick man of Europe’’ would be destroyed with one single military
The Young Turk Revolution and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire
blow proved to be wishful thinking. The British attempt to oust the
Ottoman Empire called for a massive landing of allied troops at the
foothills of Gallipoli on the European shores of the Dardanelles. After
establishing a bridgehead, the troops planned to climb the hills and
destroy the Ottoman force, which defended the heights. To the dismay
of the British, the Ottomans, supported by German officers, fought
back heroically, inflicting an impressive defeat on the enemy who
retreated with heavy casualties in January 1916. The sick man of
Europe was ailing, but it was not prepared to die.
Another advancing British front in southern Iraq also met unex-
pected resistance. With their military efforts coming to an unexpected
halt, the British resorted to the more devious strategy of fomenting in-
ternal rebellions amongst the sultan’s Arab subjects. Two Arab leaders
stood out. The first, Abdulaziz ibn Saud, was the master of Najd in
Central Arabia. As the principal protector of the Wahabi religious
movement, Ibn Saud could rally the tribes of central and eastern
Arabia against the Ottoman state. However, the British cast their lot
with another ambitious Arab leader, Sharif Husayn of Mecca. Claiming
direct lineage from the Prophet Muhammad, Sharif Husayn and his
two sons, Faisal and Abdullah, dreamt of carving a united Arab state
from the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. In
negotiations between Husayn and the British High Commissioner in
Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, the British government made a critical
promise to the Sharif and his family that if they organized a revolt
against the Ottoman Empire, at the end of the war the British would
support the creation of an independent Arab kingdom under their
leadership (see Document 4). Unknown to Sharif Husayn and his sons
was the fact that the British were also negotiating about the fate of the
Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire with their principal ally in
Europe, the French. In negotiations between Sir Mark Sykes, who rep-
resented the British government, and his French counterpart, Charles
François Georges Picot, the two European powers carved the Arab
provinces of the Ottoman Empire into British and French zones of
influence. According to the document which came to be known as the
Sykes–Picot Agreement (May 16, 1916), the British promised Greater
Syria to France, which included the present day country of Lebanon,
and the Ottoman province of Mosul in present day northern Iraq. In
return, the British gained control over the provinces of Baghdad and
Basra with an adjacent territory that stretched to the Mediterranean
towns of Acre and Jaffa, including the imprecisely defined Holy Land,
or Palestine37 (see Document 5).
In November 1917, the British government made a third critical
promise which would have a long-lasting impact on the political life of
the Middle East. In a letter addressed to one of the leaders of the Zion-
ist movement in Europe, Lord Rothschild, the British Foreign Secretary
Arthur James Balfour expressed the support of his government for the
Zionist movement’s aim to establish a Jewish National Home in Pales-
tine. The Balfour Declaration stated that the British government
viewed ‘‘with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home
for the Jewish people’’ and that it would use its ‘‘best endeavours to
facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood
that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious
rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights
and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country’’38 (see
Document 6). The map of the Arab Middle East was redrawn as the
British government tried to fulfill the promises it had made to the
Arabs, the French, and the Zionists during the First World War while
at the same time maintaining its hegemony over the region after
terminating Ottoman rule.
The Ottomans faced a far greater and more immediate challenge
in the east, where the Russians were pushing toward Erzurum in 1915.
With the Ottoman defenses collapsing in eastern Anatolia, the Russians
were poised to occupy the entire region. The Bolshevik revolution of
October 1917 and subsequent withdrawal of Russia from the war, how-
ever, saved the Ottoman state, allowing its forces to march into the
southern Caucasus region and all the way to the city of Baku on the
Caspian. During the war against Russia in eastern Anatolia, a large
number of Armenians were killed and many were deported from their
ancient homeland. The so-called ‘‘Armenian question’’ had started in
the nineteenth century when the Armenian communities both in the
Ottoman Empire and the Caucasus experienced a cultural revival.39
The study of Armenian language and history became increasingly pop-
ular, the Bible was published in the vernacular, and Armenian intellec-
tuals developed a new literary language, which made their works
accessible to the masses.40 Wealthy Armenian families began to send
their children to study in Europe, where a new class of young and edu-
cated Armenians became fluent in European languages and politics. By
the time they returned, they had been imbued with modern European
ideas such as nationalism, liberalism, and socialism. Influenced by the
rise and success of the nineteenth century nationalist movements in
the Balkans, a small group of Armenian intellectuals and activists
began to question the leadership of the Armenian Church and called
for the introduction of secular education.41 Some went one step further
and joined the Young Ottomans in their demand for the creation of a
constitutional form of government that would grant all subjects of the
sultan equal rights and protection under law. When the Congress of
The Young Turk Revolution and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire
Berlin granted independence and autonomy to several Balkan states, a
small group of Armenian officers, who served in the Russian army,
began to advocate the creation of an independent Armenian state with
support from the Russian czar.42 Two Armenian organizations, the Bell
(Hunchak) founded by Armenian students in Switzerland in the
summer of 1886 and the Hay Heghapokhakan Dashnaktsutiun (Arme-
nian Revolutionary Federation, ARF) created in the summer of 1890 in
Tiflis, played a central role in advocating Armenian independence.43
Starting in the 1890s, the tension between the Armenian popula-
tion and the Muslim population in eastern Anatolia intensified as
Armenian nationalists and Ottoman forces clashed. Abd€ ulhamid II or-
dered a crackdown on the wealthy Armenian families in Istanbul and
organized the Hamidiye regiment, which included Kurdish tribal units.
As the conflict intensified from 1890 to 1893, the Hamidiye regiments
were unleashed against the Armenian communities with devastating
results. Thousands of Armenians living in Sasun were murdered in the
summer of 1894. The attacks and mass killings continued in ‘‘Tre-
bizond, Urfa, and Erzurum in the fall of 1895, and Diarbekir, Arabkir,
Kharpert, and Kayseri in November 1895.’’44 In response, the Hun-
chaks organized demonstrations in Istanbul appealing to European
embassies to intervene. Similar protests were organized in towns across
eastern Anatolia. The situation worsened in 1895 and 1896 as the
clashes between the Hamidiye regiments and Armenian nationalists
intensified. On August 24–26, 1896, armed Armenians seized the Otto-
man Bank in Istanbul, threatening to blow it up. Other terrorist attacks
against government offices and officials followed. The sultan himself
was attacked when bombs were set off as he walked to Aya Sofya for
his Friday prayer. Some twenty Ottoman policemen were killed in the
attack. Throughout the conflict with the Ottoman government, the
Armenians had pinned their hopes on intervention by European
powers, particularly the British and the Russians. But Czar Nicholas II
opposed British intervention in a region that he viewed as a sphere of
Russian influence. He also feared the establishment of an Armenian
state led by revolutionaries who could infect his own Armenian sub-
jects with such revolutionary ideas as nationalism and socialism.
As the First World War began and fighting erupted in eastern
Anatolia, many Armenians officers and soldiers serving in the Ottoman
army defected, joining the Russians with the hope that the defeat and
collapse of the Ottoman state would fulfill the dream of establishing an
independent Armenian state.45 The defections were followed by an
uprising of the Armenians in the city of Van in April 1915. Alarmed by
the rise and popularity of the Armenian national movement, the cen-
tral committee of CUP adopted a policy of forcibly relocating the
Armenian population to the Syrian desert.46 Starting in May 1915, vir-
tually the entire Armenian population of central and eastern Anatolia
was removed from their homes. This policy was then replicated in
western Anatolia. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians perished from
starvation, disease, and exposure, and many more were brutalized by
Ottoman army units and the irregular Kurdish regiments who robbed,
raped, and killed the defenseless refugees.
Today, after the passage of almost ninety years, the plight of the Ar-
menian people continues to ignite intense emotional debate between
Armenians and Turks, centering on the number of casualties, the causes
for the deportations, and the intent of the perpetrators.47 Armenians
claim that nearly 1,500,000 lost their lives in a ‘‘genocide’’ designed at
the highest levels of the Ottoman government. Turks, in contrast, posit
the ‘‘disloyalty’’ and ‘‘traitorous activities’’ of many Armenians who
defected from the Ottoman army and joined the Russians who had
invaded the Ottoman homeland. They also claim that the majority of
Armenian deaths were caused by the irregular armed Kurdish units,
which felt threatened by the prospect of living as a minority community
under a newly established Armenian Christian state.48 According to this
argument, the Ottoman government can be held responsible for failing
to prevent the inter-communal violence between the Kurds and the
Armenians, but it cannot be blamed for atrocities that were committed
by the local Muslim population during the fog and agony of civil war.
Regardless, there is little doubt that a small inner circle within CUP’s
central committee known as Teşkil^ at-i Mahsusa or Special Organization,
which operated under the Ottoman ministry of defense since January
1914, designed and implemented the plan for relocating the Armenian
population in order to effect a ‘‘permanent solution’’ to the question of
Armenian nationalism in Ottoman lands.49
For the Ottomans, World War I came to an end when British
troops supported by Arab fighters under the leadership of Prince Faisal
entered Damascus in August 1918. The British had already occupied
Baghdad on March 11 and Jerusalem on December 9, 1917. The three
Young Turk leaders, Enver Paşa, Talat Paşa, and Cemal Paşa, fled the
country for Berlin. The Ottoman Empire sued for peace in October
1918. With Russia out of the picture, the British were the only power
with troops in the Middle East who could dictate the terms of an Otto-
man armistice. After a week of negotiations on the British ship Aga-
memnon, the terms of the Armistice of Mudros were presented to the
Ottoman government on October 31.50 They included allied occupa-
tion of Istanbul as well as the forts on the Bosphorus and Dardanelles.
On May 15, 1919, with support from the British, the French, and
the Americans, the Greek government, which had joined the allies at
The Young Turk Revolution and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire
the end of the World War I, landed troops in Izmir. In the midst of
this chaos and humiliation, Mustafa Kemal Paşa (1881–1938) was
appointed ‘‘Inspector General of Ottoman forces in northern and
northeastern Anatolia’’ and was dispatched by the sultan to disarm and
disband the remaining Ottoman army units and pacify the local popu-
lation.52 An Ottoman army officer, who had fought with distinction at
Gallipoli (1915), the Caucasus (1916), and Palestine (1917), Mustafa
Kemal had emerged as a hero of the First World War and was consid-
ered to be the ideal officer capable of diffusing a rebellion against the
sultan and the allies. Having enrolled in the Ottoman military academy,
Mustafa Kemal had joined the Young Turks before the 1908 revolution,
but had refused to assume political office even after the triumvirate of
Enver, Talat, and Cemal had seized control of the government. It was
rumored that he had opposed and criticized Enver Paşa.
On May 19, when Mustafa Kemal arrived in Samsun on the
northern coast of Anatolia, he had already decided to disobey his
orders and organize a national resistance movement.53 Support came
from other Ottoman commanders and officers who shared his determi-
nation to remove foreign forces, particularly the Greeks, from western
Anatolia and prevent Armenian nationalists from establishing an inde-
pendent state in eastern Anatolia. By June, Kemal’s activities and tele-
graphic correspondence with other commanders and officers had
aroused the suspicions of the British, who pressured the government
in Istanbul to recall him.54 Though dismissed from his post in June,
Mustafa Kemal continued his efforts, with the primary focus being the
creation of a national congress to serve as a quasi alternative govern-
ment to that in occupied Istanbul, even while he and his associates
continued to express their allegiance to the sultan-caliph. The estab-
lishment of a national congress could also resolve internal rivalries and
disagreements within the nationalist movement and provide Kemal
with the legal authority to act on behalf of the Muslim people of Anato-
lia. Throughout the summer of 1919, the Congress met, first in Erzurum
(July–August) and then in Sivas (September), discussing and devising a
program for the liberation of Ottoman Turkish lands.
Recognizing the growing popularity of the nationalist movement,
the imperial government in Istanbul tried to counter it by calling for
elections to an Ottoman parliament, which convened in Istanbul on
January 12, 1920. Neither the sultan and his officials nor the British
and their strategists recognized the depth of anti-foreign sentiments in
the new parliament, which issued a ‘‘National Pact’’ (milli misak ) on
February 17, replicating the demands of the nationalist movement.55
Allowing that the destiny of the portions of the Ottoman Empire
‘‘populated by an Arab majority’’ should be determined in accordance
with the will of the native population, the pact emphatically declared
that the Anatolian heartland, an area ‘‘inhabited by an Ottoman Muslim
majority, united in religion, in race, and in aim’’ constituted ‘‘a whole’’
and could not be divided and partitioned.56 The pact also insisted on
the security and protection of the city of Istanbul, ‘‘the capital of the Sul-
tanate, and the headquarters of the Ottoman government.’’57
By March, the British, who had awakened to the threat posed by
the Ottoman parliament in Istanbul, forced the removal of the grand
vezir and imprisoned a large number of the deputies, sending some
one hundred fifty to exile on the island of Malta. 58 The new grand
vezir, Damad Ferid Paşa, declared Mustafa Kemal and his lieutenants
to be in rebellion against the sultan and deserving of execution for
treason. In collaborating with the foreign occupiers and in condemn-
ing the leaders of national resistance to death, the sultan and his advi-
sors had demonstrated that they lacked the will and determination to
fight against the occupation and domination of the Ottoman homeland
by European powers. Worse, they had decided to collaborate with the
occupying armies against nationalist officers who were fighting to lib-
erate the Ottoman homeland. Instead of intimidating the nationalists,
the actions of the British government generated popularity for the
resistance movement, which convened a Grand National Assembly in
Ankara on April 23, 1920. The newly convened assembly elected Mus-
tafa Kemal Paşa as its president, but reiterated the loyalty of the people
to the sultan-caliph. The nationalist movement knew full well that
after being ruled by sultans for several hundred years, the majority of
the population, particularly in rural Anatolia, retained a deep emo-
tional and religious loyalty to the Ottoman dynasty. To appease popular
sentiments and at the same time diminish the power and influence of
the sultan over his subjects, the Assembly declared that because the
sultan lived under foreign occupation, all power and authority had to
rest in the Congress as the representative of the people. Britain and
France, meanwhile, moved forward with their plan of partitioning the
Ottoman Empire, imposing the humiliating Treaty of Sevres on August
10, on the imperial government in Istanbul. The treaty, which was im-
mediately condemned by Mustafa Kemal and the national resistance
movement, forced the sultan to surrender all the non-Turkish provin-
ces of the empire and partitioned Anatolia among European powers,
Greeks, Armenians, and Kurds. With the National Assembly behind
him, Mustafa Kemal focused on the two most immediate threats; the
Armenians to the east and the Greeks to the west, creating a central-
ized and unified military command structure under the leadership of
one of his most trusted and capable commanders, Ismet Paşa (later
Ismet In€ u), who was appointed the chief of the general staff.59
The Young Turk Revolution and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire
Mustafa Kemal first turned his attention to the east. The national
resistance forces under the command of K^azim Paşa (Karabekir)
attacked the forces of the Armenian Republic, which had established
itself as an independent state with its capital in the city of Erivan. As
they pushed back the Armenian forces, the Turkish nationalists
regained Ardahan and then Kars in October 1920, which the Ottomans
had lost to czarist Russia in 1878. The Treaty of G€ umr€ u, signed
between the Republic of Armenia and the nationalist movement in
December 1920, confirmed Turkish territorial gains, setting the bor-
ders at the pre-1878 boundary between Russia and the Ottoman
Empire. Shortly after signing the peace treaty, the republics of southern
Caucasus, namely Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, were attacked
and occupied by the Soviet Red army. All three lost their independence
and soon emerged as reconstituted Soviet Socialist republics under the
direct rule of the Bolshevik communist party in Moscow. Despite the
occupation of the south Caucasus by the Red Army, the Soviet govern-
ment did not challenge the new boundaries set by the peace treaty
between the Turks and the Armenians. Under siege and sanction itself,
the new communist regime in Moscow was anxious to support the
Turkish nationalist movement as a means of pushing British, French,
and Italian forces as far back from Soviet territory as possible. It could
also justify its support of Mustafa Kemal and his movement in the
name of solidarity with anti-imperialist national liberation movements.
On March 16, 1921, the nationalist government signed a treaty of
friendship with the Soviets, which recognized the frontiers between
the two states and provided Kemal’s army with badly-needed funds
and war material.
The second battle for control of Anatolia was centered in the
southern region of Cilicia which had been occupied by the French
forces shortly after the end of World War I. The French, like the
British, initially supported the establishment of an Armenian state in
eastern Anatolia. The principal objective of the French policy in the
Middle East was not, however, to gain territory in Anatolia but to
establish firm control over Syria. The units that the French moved
from Syria into Cilicia were, therefore, small and could only control
the urban centers, while Turkish and Armenian armed bands fought
over the control of the countryside. The Armenian Legion, which
intended to seize southern and eastern Anatolia for a future independ-
ent state, was strengthened further when thousands of Armenian refu-
gees, who had been displaced during the war, joined its ranks. The
skirmishes between Turkish forces and Armenian Legionnaires culmi-
nated in a battle at the town of Maraş where the Turks scored a victory,
forcing French and Armenian forces to evacuate the district. The
French, who were anxious to consolidate their control over Syria and
Lebanon and not lose credibility in front of their newly acquired Arab
subjects, entered into negotiations with the Turkish nationalist forces,
which culminated in the signing of a treaty on October 20, 1921. Rec-
ognizing the power and popularity of the nationalist movement, the
French agreed to withdraw their forces from Cilicia while at the same
time disavowing the Treaty of Sevres and accepting the legitimacy of
the emerging Turkish government.60 But, the struggle for the liberation
of the Ottoman Turkish homeland could not be completed without the
removal of Greek forces from western Anatolia.
With direct support from the British and French naval forces, the
Greek government had landed troops in Izmir on May 15, 1919. The
initial agreement with the Allies allowed the Greek forces to occupy
the city and the immediate surrounding region for five years before a
plebiscite determined whether the territory could remain under Greek
rule.61 Having recognized the absence of a significant Ottoman military
presence and an organized resistance, the Greek forces advanced
quickly beyond Izmir and occupied the entire west Anatolian province
of Aydin. As they moved farther inland, the Greeks met with little re-
sistance with the exception of a few skirmishes that could not be sus-
tained by remaining Ottoman divisions because they lacked
leadership, manpower, and war material. As the Greek forces occupied
Turkish towns and villages, Ottoman officials and representatives were
either arrested or executed while the local population was forced out
of their homes and businesses, which were often set on fire. More than
one million ethnic Turks became refugees as Greek forces swept
through western Anatolia.62 With the British refusing to stop their
expansion, the Greek forces occupied Bursa and Izmit while a second
Greek army invaded eastern Thrace in the summer of 1920, concen-
trating its efforts on capturing Edirne. With their confidence at an all
time high, the main Greek force focused on Ankara, the new capital of
the nationalist movement under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal. The
nationalist forces under the command of Ismet Paşa managed to
repulse a Greek army advancing toward Ankara at the river In€ on€
u in
January 1921, replicating the feat again in April.63 Although they could
not exploit their victories, the two successful military campaigns
boosted the confidence of the nationalist forces and enhanced the pres-
tige and popularity of Mustafa Kemal. As the Greek forces mounted
another offensive in the summer of 1921, the Grand National Assem-
bly requested that Mustafa Kemal assume the leadership of the army.
At the battle of Sakarya in August, the Turkish nationalists scored an
impressive victory against the Greeks, who fled on September 13.64 A
year passed before the Greeks could mount a new campaign. The
The Young Turk Revolution and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire
historic battle, which sealed the fate of Anatolia, began on August 26,
1922 and ended with the total defeat of Greek army on August 30.
Overextended and suffering from inadequate supply lines, the Greek
forces were routed while their commanders surrendered on Septem-
ber 2 and 3. The result was a total collapse of the Greek imperial
idea. Officers and soldiers fled to Izmir, where they and many Greek
residents of the city boarded British and French ships that
transported them to mainland Greece. At the last moment, the city
was set on fire. On September 9, 1922, the nationalist army entered
Izmir. A few days later, the Greek forces evacuated northwestern Ana-
tolia, including the city of Bursa, the first Ottoman capital.65 The vic-
tory was complete. Turkey had gained its independence, and Mustafa
Kemal had succeeded in establishing full Turkish sovereignty over
The Turkish victory resulted in a shift of attitude by the European
powers, who recognized the new reality on the ground and began a
more conciliatory policy toward the nationalist movement. The only
remaining European power, Great Britain controlled Istanbul and the
Straits. Having witnessed the decisive defeat of Greek forces and realiz-
ing that their allies, particularly the French, did not intend to fight the
Turkish nationalists, the British convinced the Greek government to
withdraw from eastern Thrace and sign an armistice (the Armistice of
Mudanya) with the Turks on October 11, 1922. On October 27, the
allies invited the nationalist government in Ankara and the imperial
government in Istanbul to attend a peace conference in Lausanne,
Switzerland.66 The Turkish nationalists, however, announced that the
sultan in Istanbul no longer represented the new Turkish nation, and
on November 1 the Grand National Assembly in Ankara abolished the
Ottoman sultanate.67 Shortly after, on November 20, a Turkish delega-
tion led by the hero of the war of independence, Ismet Paşa, arrived in
Lausanne to negotiate a peace treaty. The Turkish nationalist govern-
ment intended to negotiate on the basis of the National Pact that had
been drafted and ratified by the Grand National Assembly, which
clearly stated that the Turkish nationalist movement was willing to
accept the loss of Arab provinces. But it was not willing to compromise
on the preservation of the territorial integrity of Anatolia, the security
and restoration of Istanbul under Turkish sovereignty, the participation
of the government of Turkey in establishing a new arrangement for the
Straits, and the abolition of the capitulations.68 When the treaty was
finally concluded many months later, on July 24, 1923, the final docu-
ment represented significant compromises by the new Turkish govern-
ment and the allies. Exhausted by the war and anxious to end all
hostilities, both sides had realized that they had to give up some of
their demands in order to achieve a lasting and meaningful peace. The
Turkish side had clearly recognized that they could not revive the
Ottoman Empire and that their former Arab provinces, occupied by
the British and the French during and after World War I, were perma-
nently lost. They also renounced their claim on the island of Cyprus,
which was under British occupation, as well as several other islands
including Rhodes, Lispos, and Cos, which remained under Italian rule.
The Turks also guaranteed the civil and political rights of their non-
Muslim minorities, agreeing to the principle that ‘‘all inhabitants of
Turkey, without distinction of religion, shall be equal before law.’’69
The Turks renounced their claims on Mosul in present day northern
Iraq and the region of Hatay, which was occupied by the French until
1938 when it was returned to the Republic of Turkey. Despite such
compromises, however, the Turkish side emerged from Lausanne as
the principal victor.
After the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, the British troops
evacuated Istanbul in October 1923, and Mustafa Kemal and his army
entered the city. The time had come to deal with the Ottoman royal
family, who had collaborated with foreign occupation forces through-
out the war of national liberation and had condemned Mustafa Kemal
to death in absentia. The Grand National Assembly proclaimed the
establishment of the Republic of Turkey with Mustafa Kemal as its first
president on October 29, 1923, while a member of the Ottoman ruling
family, Abd€ ulmecid, remained the caliph. Determined to cut the coun-
try’s ties with its Ottoman past, the new government moved the capital
from Istanbul to Ankara, and on March 3, 1924 the Grand National
Assembly abolished the caliphate and the last member of the Ottoman
royal family was sent into exile. The 600-year Ottoman Empire had
ceased to exist, replaced by the modern Republic of Turkey.

1. Erik-Jan Z€ urcher, ‘‘The Young Turks: Children of the Border-
lands?’’ in Ottoman Borderlands, 276. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire,
2. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:257.
3. Feroz Ahmad, The Young Turks (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 16.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid., 177.
6. For a discussion of Auguste Comte, see Irving M. Zeitlin, Ideology
and the Development of Sociological Theory (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:
Prentice Hall, 1968), 70–9.
The Young Turk Revolution and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire
7. Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 505–6.
8. Z€urcher, ‘‘The Young Turks: Children of the Borderlands?’’, 277.
See also ހ
ukr€u Hanioglu, Preparation for a Revolution. The Young Turks,
1902–1908 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); Aykut Kansu, The
Revolution of 1908 in Turkey (Leiden: E.J. Brill 1997); and David Kushner,
The Rise of Turkish Nationalism 1876–1908 (London: Frank Cass, 1977).
9. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:266–67.
10. Ahmad, The Young Turks, 12. Andrew Mango, Atat€ urk: The Biogra-
phy of the Founder of Modern Turkey (New York: Overlook Press, 1999), 77–8.
11. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:273.
12. Mango, Atat€ urk, 85
13. Ibid.
14. Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 215–16.
15. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 104.
16. Mango, Atat€ urk, 86–7.
17. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:280.
18. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 98.
19. Ibid., 99–100.
20. Ibid., 100.
21. Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 216.
22. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 103.
23. Ibid., 105–6.
24. Ibid.
25. Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 216–17.
26. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 106.
27. Ibid.
28. Ibid.
29. Ibid., 107.
30. Ibid., 108.
31. Ibid.
32. See Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, 2:1–2.
33. Ibid.
34. Ibid.
35. Ibid., 2:5–7.
36. Ibid., 2:7–11.
37. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 143.
38. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, 2:26.
39. Simon Payaslian, The History of Armenia (New York: Palgrave
MacMillan, 2007), 117–19. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:202.
40. Ibid. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:202.
41. Ibid. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:202.
42. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, 2:202.
43. Payaslian, The History of Armenia, 119–20.
44. Ibid., 120.
45. Z€ urcher, Turkey, 114.
46. Ibid., 114–15.
47. Ibid., 115.
48. Ibid.
49. See Taner Akçam, From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism
and the Armenian Genocide (London: Zed Books, 2004), 143–5, 158–75.
Guenter Lewy, The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey (Salt Lake City:
The University of Utah Press, 2005), 82–9.
50. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, 2:36–7.
51. Mango, Atat€ urk, 217.
52. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 377.
53. Mango, Atat€ urk, 218–21.
54. Ibid., 225–6.
55. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 378. Mango, Atat€urk, 269.
56. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, 2:74–5.
57. Ibid., 2:75.
58. McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks, 378.
59. Ibid., 379.
60. Ibid., 381–2.
61. Ibid., 382.
62. Ibid., 383.
63. Ibid., 384.
64. Z€urcher, Turkey, 155.
65. Mango, Atat€ urk, 344.
66. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, 2:119–20.
67. Ibid.
68. Ibid.
69. Ibid., 2:122.
The Bosphorus. Courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz.

Topkapi Palace. Courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz.

The inner section of Topkapi Palace. Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque).
Courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz. Courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz.
Dolmabahçe Palace. Courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz.

The ancient walls of Constantinople. Courtesy of Rick and Susie

Hagia Sophia/Aya Sofya. Courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz.

Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica, 1997.

Adapted from Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks: An
Introductory History to 1923 (London, New York: Wesley
Longman Limited, 1997).

Adapted from Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory His-

tory to 1923 (London, New York: Wesley Longman Limited, 1997).
Adapted from Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks: An Intro-
ductory History to 1923 (London, New York: Wesley Long-
man Limited, 1997).

Adapted from Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory

History to 1923 (London, New York: Wesley Longman Limited,
Adapted from Kemal Cicek, ed. The Great Ottoman Turkish Civiliza-
tion, 4 vols. (Ankara: Yeni T€
urkiye, 2000).

Adapted from Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory

History to 1923 (London, New York: Wesley Longman Limited,
Adapted from Kemal Cicek, ed. The Great Ottoman Turkish Civiliza-
tion, 4 vols. (Ankara: Yeni T€
urkiye, 2000).

Adapted from Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory His-

tory to 1923 (London, New York: Wesley Longman Limited, 1997).
Adapted from Kemal Cicek, ed. The Great Ottoman Turkish Civiliza-
tion, 4 vols. (Ankara: Yeni T€
urkiye, 2000).

Adapted from Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory His-

tory to 1923 (London, New York: Wesley Longman Limited, 1997).
Adapted from, 2004.

Adapted from the website of the Palestinian Academic Society for

the Study of International Affairs.

ulhamid II (1842–1918)
The last autocratic Ottoman sultan, who ruled from 1876 to
1909, Abd€ ulhamid began his reign by supporting the establishment
of a constitution and the creation of a parliamentary system of gov-
ernment led by the charismatic and ambitious Midhat Paşa. Soon,
however, the new sultan disbanded the parliament and dismissed
Midhat, seizing the reins of power and establishing an autocratic sys-
tem where power derived solely from the sultan and the palace.
Despite his growing autocratic tendencies, Abd€ ulhamid built on the
reforms that had been introduced during the Tanzimat period. He
implemented a number of important educational, social, and eco-
nomic reforms that left a profound impact on Ottoman society. He
also tried to preserve the territorial integrity of the Ottoman state by
using highly repressive measures, suppressing nationalistic move-
ments, particularly among the Armenians, creating a secret police
force, and imposing censorship. The sultan advocated Pan-Islamism
or the unity of all Muslims under his leadership as a means of coun-
tering the Russian promotion of Pan-Slavism (the unity of Slavic peo-
ple under the leadership of Russia), while at the same time reminding
the British and the French that their Muslim subjects in the newly
acquired colonies in India and North Africa viewed him as their spir-
itual leader. Despite his best efforts to modernize Ottoman society
under an Islamic ideology, Abd€ ulhamid failed to win the support of
the newly emerging intelligentsia and army officers who supported
the opposition as represented by Committee of Union and Progress
(CUP). In July 1908, a group of young army officers staged a revolt
and forced Abd€ ulhamid to restore the 1876 constitution. Despite its
victory, the CUP did not depose the sultan. In April 1909, however,
after a counterrevolution forced CUP out of power, the army inter-
vened and suppressed the rebellion. Shortly after, the sultan was
deposed and removed to Salonica. In 1912, he was allowed to return
to Istanbul. He died on February 10, 1918.

Evliye Çelebi (1611–1682)

Evliye Çelebi was the Ottoman traveler who left palace service
and made traveling his sole purpose in life after seeing the Prophet
Muhammad in a dream. Initially, he traveled in various provinces of
the Ottoman Empire by attaching himself to various government offi-
cials and army commanders. Later, he traveled on his own and left the
Ottoman territory for other countries. He visited Sudan, Iran, Russia,
Poland, Austria, the German lands, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Dur-
ing his trips, Evliye Çelebi recorded his observations on a wide variety
of topics, from the natural topography to the state of local administra-
tion and the names and achievements of prominent scholars, poets,
artists, and architects. He also recorded folk tales, religious traditions,
and customs, as well as popular songs and legends. His Siy^ ahatname
(‘‘Travel book’’) is, therefore, one of the most valuable sources for the
study of the Ottoman Empire, Iran, the Caucasus, the Balkans, and
Central Europe during the seventeenth century.

Ibrahim *inasi (1826–1871)

Journalist, author, and critic, Ibrahim Şinasi began his career in
the Ottoman government. With the support and encouragement from
his patron, Mustafa Reşid Paşa, Şinasi studied in Paris from 1849 to
1854, where he came under the influence of modern European ideas.
In 1860, Şinasi became the editor of a newspaper, Terc€ um^ an-i Ahv^al
(Interpreter of Situations). In 1862, Şinasi left Terc€ um^an-i Ahv^al and
started a new newspaper, Tasvir-i Efk^ ar (Illustration of Opinions). As a
member of a new generation of young Ottoman intellectuals, the patri-
otic and liberal-minded Şinasi criticized the despotic and highly
bureaucratic policies of the leaders of the Tanzimat and their appeasing
attitude toward European states. Fearing government retaliation, Şinasi
left Istanbul for Paris in 1865 and left the editorship and the manage-
ment of the newspaper to Namik Kemal. Aside from his articles, Şinasi
also translated the poetry of Racine, La Fontaine, and Lamartine from
French into Turkish. He also wrote plays, including the comedy Ş^ air
Evlenmesi (Marriage of a Poet), which was published in 1859.

Kemal Atat€
urk (Mustafa Kemal Pa+a) (1881–1938)
Founder of the Republic of Turkey, Atat€urk was born in Salonica.
He attended military school at Monastir and later in Istanbul. He
joined the young officers who opposed Abd€ ulhamid II and participated
in suppressing the counterrevolutionary forces who tried to overthrow
the government dominated by the Committee of Union and Progress
(CUP) in 1909. In 1911, when Italy invaded and occupied Libya, he
went to the North African province to fight the Italian forces. During
the First World War, he fought at Gallipoli in 1915–16 and emerged as
the hero when the Ottomans defeated the Allied forces. After the end
of the war, he was sent by the sultan to eastern Anatolia to disarm the
remaining Ottoman divisions in the region. Instead of obeying his
orders, Atat€
urk joined the army units that had refused to disband and
emerged as the leader of the national resistance movement, which
organized the Turkish National Assembly in April 1920. The national-
ist movement defeated the Armenians in the east and the Greeks in the
west and established a Turkish republic in Anatolia and eastern Thrace.
Atat€urk abolished the institutions of sultanate and caliphate, sending
the last Ottoman caliph into exile in 1924. He also embarked on an
ambitious program of reforms, building a new economic infrastructure
for the newly created country. He also reformed the educational sys-
tem, changed the alphabet, and emancipated women.

Mahmud II (1784/85–1839)
The son of Sultan Abd€ ulhamid I and a cousin of Selim III,
Mahmud ascended the Ottoman throne in 1808 after the powerful
ayan, Bayrakd^ar Mustafa Paşa, overthrew the reigning sultan, Mustafa
IV. The long reign of Mahmud was characterized by nationalist revolts
in Serbia and Greece and the growing power and intervention of Russia
in the Balkans. Mahmud tried to impose the authority of the central
government over provinces by attacking the powerful ayans who had
established themselves as autonomous rulers. His attack on Ali Paşa of
Janina allowed the Greek nationalists to revolt and gain independence
with support from Russia, France, and Great Britain. In 1826, the
sultan dissolved the janissary corps. The conflict between Mahmud
and the governor of Egypt, Muhammad Ali (Mehmed Ali), resulted
into a series of military campaigns that ended with the defeat of Otto-
man forces in 1833. The Egyptian victory forced Mahmud to seek the
support of the Russian government by signing the Treaty of H€ unk^ar
Iskelesi, which greatly increased the power and influence of the
Russian state over the Ottoman Empire. Despite the military defeats
and territorial losses, Mahmud remained committed to the implemen-
tation of important political, military, economic, and educational
reforms until his death in 1839.

Mehmed II (1432–1481)
Mehmed ascended the Ottoman throne in 1444 at the age of twelve
after his father Murad II abdicated in his favor. As a young sultan,
Mehmed was under the influence of his advisers, Zaganos Paşa and
Şih^abeddin, who advocated an immediate invasion of Constantinople. In
1446, his father returned to the throne and assumed leadership of the
Ottoman government. After Murad died in 1451, Mehmed ascended the
Ottoman throne for a second time. The young sultan was determined to
fulfill the old dream of conquering the capital of the Byzantine state. In
May 1453, Ottoman forces stormed and captured Constantinople, and
Mehmed (now called ‘‘The Conqueror’’) proclaimed the city his capital.
Mehmed dreamed of completing his conquest of Serbia by capturing Bel-
grade, but Ottoman forces failed to capture the city in 1456. Despite this
failure, much of Serbia was incorporated into the Ottoman state in 1459.
In 1463, Mehmed pushed westward and captured Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Three years later, the Ottomans established a foothold in Albania. To the
east, Mehmed conquered the kingdom of Trebizond in 1461 and defeated
the armies of Uzun Hasan, the chief of the Ak Koyunlu (White Sheep)
Turcomans who had established an empire in Iran. The defeat of Ak
Koyunlu allowed Mehmed to incorporate the Turcoman principality of
Karaman into his empire. Having neutralized the threat to his empire in
the east, Mehmed shifted his focus to the west and attacked Venice. The
Morea was thus brought under direct Ottoman rule. To the north,
Mehmed established Ottoman suzerainty over Crimean Tatars in 1478.
The alliance with the Crimean Tatars allowed Mehmed to impose Otto-
man hegemony over the northern shores of the Black Sea. By the time
Mehmed died in 1481, the Ottomans had established a foothold on the
Italian peninsula with the goal of attacking Rome. During his reign,
Mehmed sponsored the construction of many mosques and palaces, the
most important being the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, which remained the
official residence of Ottoman sultans until the mid-nineteenth century.

Mustafa Re+id Pa+a (1800–1858)

The Ottoman reformer, diplomat, and statesman Mustafa Reşid
Paşa was born in 1800 and received a traditional medrese education.
He joined the scribal institution and in 1821 participated in the Otto-
man campaign to crush the nationalist uprising in Greece. In 1828,
Reşid served in the war against Russia. In the peace negotiations at
Edirne in 1829, he was a member of the Ottoman delegation. In 1830,
Reşid joined the delegation sent by Mahmud II to Egypt to negotiate
with Muhammad Ali Paşa. In the military campaigns against Greek
nationalists and Russia, he had witnessed the embarrassing perform-
ance of the Ottoman army. During his visit to Egypt, he saw first-hand
the reforms of Muhammad Ali. When Muhammad Ali invaded Anato-
lia and defeated Ottoman forces near Konya, Reşid was sent to negoti-
ate with Muhammad Ali’s son, Ibrahim Paşa. Reşid went to Paris in
1834 to negotiate with the French government about the withdrawal
of French forces from Algeria. In 1835, Reşid was appointed Ottoman
ambassador to Paris. A year later, the sultan sent him to London as his
ambassador. During his tenure as the Ottoman ambassador in London,
Reşid developed a close relationship with influential British officials.
In the summer of 1837, he returned to Istanbul and was appointed
minister of foreign affairs. In 1838, he was sent to London to convince
the British government to sign a treaty against Egypt. Instead, he
signed a commercial treaty with the British government, which opened
the Ottoman market to British goods and investment. After the death
of Mahmud II in the summer of 1839, Reşid Paşa played an important
role in writing the Noble Edict of G€ ulhane, which inaugurated the era
of Tanzimat. During the reign of Sultan Abd€ ulmecid (1839–1861), he
served as the grand vezir six times and attempted to introduce admin-
istrative, social, economic, and educational reforms using advanced
European countries as his model. In the crisis that led to the Crimean
War (1853–1856), he used the British and the French to isolate and
eventually defeat Russia and secure the inclusion of the Ottoman state
in the Concert of Europe.

Namik Kemal (1840–1888)

Poet, journalist, playwright, novelist, critic, and a member of the
group that came to be known as Young Ottomans, Namik Kemal was
one of the most important literary and intellectual figures of the Otto-
man Empire during the second half of the nineteenth century. Born
into an old and prominent Turkish family, which traced its ancestry to
an Ottoman grand vezir in the eighteenth century, Kemal was raised
and educated by his grandfather, who was a high government official
and a member of the Mevlevi mystical (sufi) order, where he learned
sama (mystical chants) and Persian. Kemal began his government
career as a secretary at Bab-i Ali or Sublime Porte in 1857. He then
joined the Translation Office of the Ottoman Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
When Ibrahim Şinasi published Tasvir-i Efk^ar, Namik Kemal contributed
articles to the newspaper. When Şinasi fled to Paris, Namik Kemal took
over the newspaper, writing articles and criticizing the leaders of the
Tanzimat for their authoritarianism and corruption. In collaboration
with several other intellectuals, including Ziya, Namik Kemal founded
the Young Ottoman movement. He and Ziya were, however, forced to
leave Istanbul first for Paris and then London where they published
H€urriyet (Liberty), which advocated a constitutional system of govern-
ment. After his return from exile, Namik Kemal began to publish the
newspaper Ibret (Admonition) in 1872. His most controversial work,
however, was the patriotic play, Vatan Yahud Silistre (‘‘Fatherland or Silis-
tria’’), which led the government to imprison him on the island of Cy-
prus. After the 1876 coup, which deposed Sultan Abd€ ulaziz, Namik
Kemal returned to Istanbul and played an important role in drafting the
constitution that was introduced by Midhat Paşa. After the dismissal of
Midhat by the new sultan, Abd€ ulhamid II, Namik Kemal was detained
and sent into exile in 1877. Namik Kemal believed in the introduction
of a constitutional government. He also advocated the preservation of
the Islamic identity of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, in his writings, he
sought to reconcile the establishment of a modern political system based
on individual liberties with Islamic beliefs and traditions, arguing that
far from undermining Islam, the creation of a constitutional form of gov-
ernment could be viewed as a return to the original teachings of Islam.

Osman (1258/59–1326)
Osman, the founder of the Ottoman state, began his career as a
frontier commander (bey) and a g^ azi or a holy warrior, fighting against
infidels. He first captured the important town of Eskişehir and, using it
as his base, attacked and occupied Yenişehir. In July 1302, Osman
defeated a Byzantine army outside Nicomedia (Izmit). The victory
brought recognition and prestige for Osman and allowed the beys fight-
ing under his command to push toward the Sea of Marmara and the
Aegean. His son Orhan built on his father’s conquests and took the
important Byzantine city of Bursa in 1326.

Selim I (1470–1520)
After ascending the throne, Selim, also known as Yavuz (the Ter-
rible), killed all his brothers, nephews, and most probably poisoned
his ailing father. During Selim’s short reign, the Ottoman Empire
emerged as the supreme power in eastern Anatolia and the Arab
world. Before confronting the threat posed by the Safavid dynasty in
Iran, Selim massacred 40,000 people in Anatolia for their alleged
pro-Shia/pro-Safavid sympathies. In 1514, at the Battle of Ch^aldiran,
Ottoman forces defeated the armies of Shah Ismail, who had emerged
as the ruler of Iran and the founder of the Safavid dynasty in 1501.
Selim annexed the Emirate of Dulkadir, which served as a buffer state
between the Ottoman Empire and the Mamluks. Between 1516 and
1517, Ottoman forces attacked the Mamluks, who were defeated at
the battle of Marc D^abik/Marj D^abiq (1516). The Mamluk sultan,
Qansu al-Ghawri, was killed on the battlefield. The Ottoman forces
inflicted another defeat on the Mamluk forces at Raydaniyya near
Cairo. Syria and Egypt were thus brought under Ottoman rule.
Western Arabia, including the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina,
also accepted Ottoman suzerainty. With this conquest, the Ottoman
sultan could claim the title of the protector of the two holiest sites in

Selim III (1761–1808)

The son of Mustafa III, Selim became fascinated with European
culture and established a close relationship with Louis XVI. He intro-
duced a reform program, Nizam-i Cedid, intended to establish central
government control over the provinces that were becoming increas-
ingly dominated by local notables or the ayans. The most important
component of his reforms was a new army, which was opposed by the
janissaries and other traditional-minded elements within the Ottoman
ruling elite, such as the ulema. In addition, he could not secure a stable
financial base for his military and administrative reforms without
debasing the Ottoman currency and increasing taxes. The unpopular-
ity of the sultan’s reforms and the opposition of the ulema and the jan-
issaries ignited a revolt, which deposed Selim from the throne. He was
subsequently killed by order of his successor, Mustafa IV, in 1808.

Sinan (1489/90–1588)
Sinan was the chief imperial architect during the reign of
uleyman the Magnificent (1520–1566). Born into a Greek Christian
family, Sinan was recruited into government service through the
devşirme during the reign of Selim I (1512–1520). He served in the
Ottoman army during the reign of S€ uleyman the Magnificent, building
bridges and citadels during the sultan’s campaigns in Europe and Asia.
He was greatly influenced by Byzantine architecture as well as by the
Iranian architect, Acemi Ali, who had been brought back by S€ uleyman
from Tabriz. The design and construction of some 477 buildings have
been attributed to Sinan. The three largest and most important build-
ings he built are the Şehz^
ade (son of the shah) mosque (1543–1548) in
Istanbul, which he built for S€ uleyman the Magnificent as a mausoleum
for his son, Mehmed; the S€ uleym^aniyye mosque complex (1550–1557),
which included a mosque and fourteen buildings; and Selimiyye, which
dominates the city of Edirne and is considered the masterpiece of this
brilliant Ottoman architect.

uleyman the Magnificent (1494/95–1566)
uleyman, the son of Selim I, ruled from 1520 to 1566. During his
reign, the Ottoman Empire reached the zenith of its power, capturing
Belgrade in 1521 and using it as a territorial base to invade and conquer
Hungary. At the battle of Mohacs in 1526, the Ottomans inflicted a dev-
astating defeat on the Hungarians, killing their king on the battlefield
and putting an end to the Hungarian kingdom. S€ uleyman’s victory sig-
naled the beginning of the intense rivalry between the Habsburgs and
the Ottomans. In 1529, the Ottoman forces laid siege to Vienna, but after
a few weeks they withdrew. Having established a close alliance with
France, S€ uleyman forced the Habsburgs to accept Ottoman rule over
Hungary. To the east, S€ uleyman waged several military campaigns
against Iran, capturing the cities of Baghdad in Iraq and Tabriz in
Azerbaijan. Ottoman forces also seized parts of the southern Caucasus,
including Georgia. S€ uleyman’s foreign policy was based on an alliance
with France, which would pressure and isolate the Habsburgs. In the
east, the Ottomans enjoyed a close alliance with the Uzbeks in Central
Asia, who carried out devastating raids against Iran’s northeastern
provinces. During S€ uleyman’s reign, the Ottomans established their
naval superiority in the Mediterranean under the command of Hayred-
din Paşa, also known as Barbarossa or Barbaros, who was appointed
Kapudan-i derya or grand admiral. S€ uleyman also intended to invade
and conquer India by attacking the Portuguese navy and establishing
Ottoman hegemony over the Persian Gulf. His long wars with the
Habsburgs in Europe and the Safavids in Iran, as well as long distances
and the enormous cost of such an undertaking, prevented him from
realizing this project.

Yusuf AkcEura (1876–1935)

Yusuf Akçura, also known as Akçuraoglu Yusuf, was a Kazan Tatar
from Simbirsk on the river Volga. As a student in the War Academy in
Istanbul, he joined the Young Turks and was exiled to Libya. He
escaped from North Africa to France. In Paris, he studied at Ecole des
Sciences Politiques. He returned to his homeland in 1904, where he
wrote his most influential work, Uç€ Tarz-i Siyaset (Three Types of Pol-
icy). After the victory of the Young Turk Revolution, Akçura returned
to Istanbul and in 1911 founded the journal T€ urk Yurdu. During the
war of independence, Akçura joined the nationalist forces, and after
the establishment of the Turkish Republic he was elected to the Grand
National Assembly. He also served as the president of the Turkish Histor-
€ Tarz-i Siyaset,
ical Society and taught history at Ankara University. In Uç
Akçura presented Ottomanism, Pan-Islamism, and Pan-Turkism as the
three dominant ideological trends of his time. He rejected Ottomanism,
which called for the unification of all national groups living in the
Ottoman Empire in a single Ottoman nation. He also dismissed Pan-
Islamism as an ideology that could not generate sufficient unity and soli-
darity among the Muslims both inside and outside the boundaries of the
Ottoman Empire. Instead, he called for Pan-Turkism, or the union of all
Turkic peoples of the world. Akçura believed that Pan-Turkism could
mobilize and unify the Turkic people around a common ethnicity and

Ziya G€
okalp (1876–1924)
One of the most influential Turkish intellectuals of the twentieth
century, Ziya G€okalp was a thinker, writer, teacher, and scholar, who
devoted much of his life and writings to the study of the impact of
Western civilization on Islam and Turkish national identity. He was
born in Diyarbakir in southeastern Anatolia into a mixed Turkish and
Kurdish family. As a student in Istanbul, he joined the Committee of
Union and Progress (CUP), but he was arrested and sent back to Diyar-
bakir. When CUP seized power in 1908, G€ okalp emerged as one of its
ideological leaders and was elected to parliament in 1912. He also
began to teach sociology at the D^ ar€
unun (The House of Sciences/
University) and published the newspaper Peyman (Agreement) and
several intellectual journals. The majority of his works written
between 1911 and 1918 and 1922 and 1924 were greatly influenced by
the historical conditions of the late Ottoman period and the early
stages of the nationalist movement. He witnessed the decline and the
disintegration of the empire and the rise of a secular nationalist repub-
lic under Atat€urk. Distinguishing culture from civilization, he asserted
that culture incorporated the national characteristics of a nation,
whereas civilization belonged to humanity and was therefore an inter-
national phenomenon. He advocated the idea of Turks abandoning
Eastern civilization and adopting Western civilization while preserving
their Turkish national identity and culture. He believed in secularism,
democracy, Westernism, women’s emancipation, and political as well
as economic independence, the very principles adopted as the ideolog-
ical foundation for the reforms implemented by the founder of modern
Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atat€ urk.

Document 1: Love Poem (Ghazal) by Sultan

uleyman I, ‘‘the Magnificent,’’ for H€
urrem Sultan
My intimate companion, my prosperity, my beloved, my shining
My lover, my joy, my abundance, my sultan, the shah of beauties.
My life, my everything, my lifetime, my Kawthar, the paradisical
river of wine
My spring, my laughter, my sun, my beauty, my smiling rose
My joy, my revelry, my rendezvous, my oil lamp, my light, my
My Seville orange, my pomegranate, my sweet orange, my taper
burning in the bedchamber
My flower, my sweet, my hidden treasure, my serenity in the
My precious, my Joseph, my riches, my heart, my khan of Egypt
My Stamboul, my Karaman, my sovereign realm of ancient
My Badakhshan and Kipchak and Baghdad, my Khorasan
Mine of serpentine locks, arched brows, eyes full of mischief
and languishing
You are to blame if I die, come to my aid, O you unbeliever!
Heavy of heart, my eyes wetted with tears, I am Muhibbi the
Seeing that I am your eulogist, I will forever sing your praises at
your threshold.

Sources: ‘‘Sulayman the Magnificent and Khurrem Sultan: An Empyreal

Love Story,’’ P Art and Culture Magazine: The International Magazine of
Art and Culture (Istanbul, Turkey), 7 (Winter 2003), 108–9. Translation
from the Ottoman Turkish by Dr. Joyce Hedda Matthews.
Primary Documents

Document 2: Treaty of K€ €k Kaynarca, 1774
The Treaty of K€
uk Kaynarca was signed on July 21, 1774, in
uk Kaynarca (present-day Bulgaria) between the Russian Empire
and the Ottoman Empire after the Ottomans were defeated in the
Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774.

I. From the present time all the hostilities and enmities

which have hitherto prevailed shall cease for ever, and all hostile
acts and enterprises committed on either side, whether by force
of arms or in any other manner, shall be buried in an eternal ob-
livion, without vengeance being taken for them in any way
whatever; but, on the contrary, there shall always be a perpetual,
constant, and inviolable peace, as well by sea as by land.  
III. All the Tartar peoples—those of the Crimea, of the
Budjiac, of the Kuban, the Edissans, Geambouiluks and Editsh-
kuls—shall, without any exceptions, be acknowledged by the
two Empires as free nations, and entirely independent of every
foreign Power, governed by their own Sovereign, of the race of
Ghenghis Khan, elected and raised to the throne by all the Tar-
tar peoples; which Sovereign shall govern them according to
their ancient laws and usages, being responsible to no foreign
Power whatsoever; for which reason, neither the Court of Russia
nor the Ottoman Porte shall interfere, under any pretext what-
ever, with the election of the said Khan, or in the domestic,
political, civil and internal affairs of the same; but, on the contrary,
they shall acknowledge and consider the said Tartar nation, in
its political and civil state, upon the same footing as the other
Powers who are governed by themselves, and are dependent
upon God alone. As to the ceremonies of religion, as the Tar-
tars profess the same faith as the Mahometans [Muslims], they
shall regulate themselves, with respect to His Highness, in his
capacity of Grand Caliph of Mahometanism [Islam], according
to the precepts prescribed to them by their law, without com-
promising, nevertheless, the stability of their political and civil
VII. The Sublime Porte promises to protect constantly the
Christian religion and its churches, and it also allows the Minis-
ters of the Imperial Court of Russia to make, upon all occasions,
representations, as well in favour of the new church at Constan-
tinople, of which mention will be made in Article XIV, as on
behalf of its officiating ministers, promising to take such re-
presentations into due consideration, as being made by a confi-
dential functionary of a neighbouring and sincerely friendly
XI. For the convenience and advantage of the two Empires,
there shall be a free and unimpeded navigation for the merchant
Primary Documents
ships belonging to the two Contracting Powers, in all seas which
wash their shores . . .  

Source: J.C. Hurewitz. Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East: A Docu-
mentary Record: 1535–1914, 2 vols. (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand
Company, 1956), 1:54–61.

Document 3: The G€
ulhane Proclamation, 1839
The Hatt-i Şerif of G€
ulhane (The Noble Edict of the Rose Gar-
den) was a 1839 proclamation by Ottoman Sultan Abd€ ulmecid that
launched the Tanzimat period of reforms and reorganization.

All the world knows that in the first days of the Ottoman
monarchy, the glorious precepts of the Koran and the laws of
the empire were always honored.
The empire in consequence increased in strength and
greatness, and all its subjects, without exception, had risen in
the highest degree to ease and prosperity. In the last one hun-
dred and fifty years a succession of accidents and diverse causes
have arisen which have brought about a disregard for the sacred
code of laws and the regulations flowing therefrom, and the for-
mer strength and prosperity have changed into weakness and
poverty; an empire in fact loses all its stability so soon as it
ceases to observes its laws.
These considerations are ever present to our mind, and ever
since the day of our advent to the throne the thought of the public
wealth of the improvement of the state of the provinces, and of
relief to the [subject] peoples, has not ceased to engage it. If,
therefore, the geographical position of the Ottoman provinces, the
fertility of the soil, the aptitude and intelligence of the inhabitants,
are considered, the conviction will remain that by striving to find
efficacious means, the result, which by the help of God we hope to
attain, can be obtained within a few years. Full of confidence,
therefore, in the help of the Most High, and certain of the support
of our Prophet, we deem it right to seek by new institutions to give
to the provinces composing the Ottoman Empire the benefit of a
good administration.
These institutions must be principally carried out under
three heads, which are:
1. The guarantees insuring to our subjects perfect security for
life, honor, and fortune.
2. A regular system of assessing and levying taxes.
3. An equally regular system for the levy of troops and the du-
ration of their service.
Primary Documents
And, in fact, are not life and honor the most precious gifts
to mankind? What man, however much his character may be
against violence, can prevent himself from having recourse to it,
and thereby injure the government and the country, if his life
and honor are endangered? If, on the contrary, he enjoys in that
respect perfect security, he will not depart from the ways of loy-
alty, and all his actions will contribute to the good of the gov-
ernment and of his brothers.
If there is an absence of security as to one’s fortune, every-
one remains insensible to the voice of the Prince and the coun-
try; no one interests himself in the progress of public good,
absorbed as he is in his own troubles. If, on the contrary, the cit-
izen keeps possession in all confidence of all his goods, then,
full of ardor in his affairs, which he seeks to enlarge in order to
increase his comforts, he feels daily growing and doubling in his
heart not only his love for the Prince and country, but also his
devotion to his native land.
These feelings become in him the source of the most
praiseworthy actions.
As to the regular and fixed assessment of the taxes, it is very
important that it be regulated; for the state which is forced to
incur many expenses for the defense of its territory cannot obtain
the money necessary for its armies and other services except by
means of contributions levied on its subjects. Although, thanks be
to God, our empire has for some time past been delivered from the
scourge of monopolies, falsely considered in times of war as a
source of revenue, a fatal custom still exists, although it can only
have disastrous consequences; it is that of venal concessions,
known under the name of ‘‘Iltizam.’’
Under that name the civil and financial administration of a
locality is delivered over to the passions of a single man; that is
to say, sometimes to the iron grasp of the most violent and avari-
cious passions, for if that contractor is not a good man, he will
only look to his own advantage.
It is therefore necessary that henceforth each member of
Ottoman society should be taxed for a quota of a fixed tax accord-
ing to his fortune and means, and that it should be impossible that
anything more could be exacted from him. It is also necessary that
special laws should fix and limit the expenses of our land and sea
Although, as we have said, the defense of the country is an
important matter, and that it is the duty of all the inhabitants to
furnish soldiers for that object, it has become necessary to estab-
lish laws to regulate the contingent to be furnished by each
locality according to the necessity of the time, and to reduce the
term of military service to four or five years. For it is at the
same time doing an injustice and giving a mortal blow to agri-
culture and to industry to take, without consideration to the
respective population of the localities, in the one more, in the
Primary Documents
other less, men than they can furnish; it is also reducing the sol-
diers to despair and contributing to the depopulation of the
country by keeping them all their lives in service.
In short, without the several laws, the necessity for which
has just been described, there can be neither strength, nor
riches, nor happiness, nor tranquility for the empire; it must, on
the contrary, look for them in the existence of these new laws.
From henceforth, therefore, the cause of every accused per-
son shall be publicly judged, as the divine law requires, after in-
quiry and examination, and so long as a regular judgment shall
not have been pronounced, no one can secretly or publicly put
another to death by poison or in any other manner.
No one shall be allowed to attack the honor of any other
person whatever.
Each one shall possess his property of every kind, and
shall dispose of it in all freedom, without let or hindrance from
any person whatever; thus, for example, the innocent heirs of a
criminal shall not be deprived of their legal rights, and the prop-
erty of the criminal shall not be confiscated. These imperial con-
cessions shall extend to all our subjects, of whatever religion or
sect they may be; they shall enjoy them without exception. We
therefore grant perfect security to the inhabitants of our empire
in their lives, their honor, and their fortunes, as they are secured
to them by the sacred text of the law.
As for the other points, as they must be settled with the as-
sistance of enlightened opinions, our council of justice
(increased by new members as shall be found necessary), to
whom shall be joined, on certain days which we shall determine,
our ministers and the notabilities of the empire, shall assemble
in order to frame laws regulating the security of life and fortune
and the assessment of the taxes. Each one in those assemblies
shall freely express his ideas and give his advice.
The laws regulating the military service shall be discussed
by a military council holding its sittings at the palace of Seras-
kia. As soon as a law shall be passed, in order to be forever
valid, it shall be presented to us; we shall give it our approval,
which we will write with our imperial sign-manual.
As the object of these institutions is solely to revivify reli-
gion, government, the nation, and the empire, we engage not to
do anything which is contrary thereto.
In testimony of our promise we will, after having deposited
these presents in the hall containing the glorious mantle of the
prophet, in the presence of all the ulemas and the grandees of
the empire, make oath thereto in the name of God, and shall
afterwards cause the oath to be taken by the ulemas and the
grandees of the empire.
After that, those from among the ulemas or the grandees of
the empire, or any other persons whatsoever who shall infringe
these institutions, shall undergo, without respect of rank, position,
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and influence, the punishment corresponding to his crime, after
having been well authenticated.
A penal code shall be compiled to that effect. As all the pub-
lic servants of the empire receive a suitable salary, and as the sal-
aries of those whose duties have not up to the present time been
sufficiently remunerated are to be fixed, a rigorous law shall be
passed against the traffic of favoritism and bribery (richvet), which
the Divine law reprobates, and which is one of the principal causes
of the decay of the empire.
The above dispositions being a thorough alteration and
renewal of ancient customs this imperial rescript shall be pub-
lished at Constantinople and in all places of our empire, and shall
be officially communicated to all the ambassadors of the friendly
powers resident at Constantinople, that they may be witnesses to
the granting of these institutions, which, should it please God,
shall last forever. Wherein may the Most High have us in His holy
keeping. May those who commit an act contrary to the present
regulations be object of Divine malediction, and be deprived for-
ever of every kind of [protection] happiness.

Source: J.C. Hurewitz. Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East: A Docu-
mentary Record: 1535–1914, 2 vols. (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand
Company, 1956), 1:113–16.

Document 4: The McMahon–Husayn

Correspondence: July 14, 1915 to March 10, 1916
The Husayn-McMahon Correspondence refers to ten letters
between Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner of Egypt,
and Husayn bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca. In return for an Arab revolt
against the Ottoman government, the British promised Sharif Husayn
an independent Arab state after the end of the First World War.

1. From Sharif Husayn, 14 July 1915

Whereas the whole of the Arab nation without any exception have
decided in these last years to live, and to accomplish their freedom,
and grasp the reins of their administration both in theory and prac-
tice; and whereas they have found and felt that it is to the interest of
the Government of Great Britain to support them and aid them to
the attainment of their firm and lawful intentions (which are based
upon the maintenance of the honour and dignity of their life) with-
out any ulterior motives whatsoever unconnected with this object;
And whereas it is to their (the Arabs’) interest also to
prefer the assistance of the Government of Great Britain in
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consideration of their geographical position and economic inter-
ests, and also of the attitude of the above-mentioned Govern-
ment, which is known to both nations and therefore need not be
For these reasons the Arab nation see fit to limit themselves,
as time is short, to asking the Government of Great Britain, if it
should think fit, for the approval, through her deputy or represen-
tative, of the following fundamental propositions, leaving out all
things considered secondary in comparison with these, so that it
may prepare all means necessary for attaining this noble purpose,
until such time as it finds occasion for making the actual negotia-
Firstly.- England to acknowledge the independence of the
Arab countries, bounded on the north by Mersina and Adana up
to the 37º of latitude, on which degree fall Birijik, Urfa, Mardin,
Midiat, Jezirat (Ibn ’Umar), Amadia, up to the border of Persia; on
the east by the borders of Persia up to the Gulf of Basra; on the
south by the Indian Ocean, with the exception of the position of
Aden to remain as it is; on the west by the Red Sea, the Mediterra-
nean Sea up to Mersina. England to approve of the proclamation
of an Arab Khalifate of Islam.
Secondly.- The Arab Government of the Sherif to acknowl-
edge that England shall have the preference in all economic enter-
prises in the Arab countries whenever conditions of enterprises
are otherwise equal.
Thirdly.- For the security of this Arab independence and the
certainty of such preference of economic enterprises, both high
contracting parties to offer mutual assistance, to the best ability of
their military and naval forces, to face any foreign Power which
may attack either party. Peace not to be decided without agree-
ment of both parties.
Fourthly.- If one of the parties enters upon an aggressive
conflict, the other party to assume a neutral attitude, and in case
of such party wishing the other to join forces, both to meet and
discuss the conditions.
Fifthly.- England to acknowledge the abolition of foreign
privileges in the Arab countries, and to assist the Government of
the Sherif in an International Convention for confirming such
Sixthly.- Articles 3 and 4 of this treaty to remain in vigour
for fifteen years, and, if either wishes it to be renewed, one year’s
notice before lapse of treaty to be given.
Consequently, and as the whole of the Arab nation have
(praise be to God) agreed and united for the attainment, at all
costs and finally, of this noble object, they beg the Government
of Great Britain to answer them positively or negatively in a
period of thirty days after receiving this intimation; and if this
period should lapse before they receive an answer, they reserve
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to themselves complete freedom of action. Moreover, we (the
Sherif’s family) will consider ourselves free in word and deed
from the bonds of our previous declaration which we made
through Ali Effendi.

2. From Sir Henry McMahon, 24 October 1915

I have received your letter of the 29th Shawal, 1333, with much
pleasure and your expressions of friendliness and sincerity have
given me the greatest satisfaction.
I regret that you should have received from my last letter
the impression that I regarded the question of the limits and
boundaries with coldness and hesitation; such was not the case,
but it appeared to me that the time had not yet come when that
question could be discussed in a conclusive manner.
I have realised, however, from your last letter that you
regard this question as one of vital and urgent importance. I have,
therefore, lost no time in informing the Government of Great Brit-
ain of the contents of your letter, and it is with great pleasure that
I communicate to you on their behalf the following statement,
which I am confident you will receive with satisfaction:-
The two districts of Mersina and Alexandretta and portions
of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs,
Hama and Aleppo cannot be said to be purely Arab, and should
be excluded from the limits demanded.
With the above modification, and without prejudice of our
existing treaties with Arab chiefs, we accept those limits.
As for those regions lying within those frontiers wherein
Great Britain is free to act without detriment to the interest of
her ally, France, I am empowered in the name of the Govern-
ment of Great Britain to give the following assurances and make
the following reply to your letter:-
(1) Subject to the above modifications, Great Britain is prepared to
recognize and support the independence of the Arabs in all the
regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca.
(2) Great Britain will guarantee the Holy Places against all
external aggression and will recognise their inviolability.
(3) When the situation admits, Great Britain will give to the
Arabs her advice and will assist them to establish what may
appear to be the most suitable forms of government in those
various territories.
(4) On the other hand, it is understood that the Arabs have decided
to seek the advice and guidance of Great Britain only, and that
such European advisers and officials as may be required for the
formation of a sound form of administration will be British.
(5) With regard to the vilayets of Bagdad and Basra, the Arabs
will recognise that the established position and interests of
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Great Britain necessitate special administrative arrangements
in order to secure these territories from foreign aggression,
to promote the welfare of the local populations and to safe-
guard our mutual economic interests.
I am convinced that this declaration will assure you beyond
all possible doubt of the sympathy of Great Britain towards the
aspirations of her friends the Arabs and will result in a firm and
lasting alliance, the immediate results of which will be the expul-
sion of the Turks from the Arab countries and the freeing of the
Arab peoples from the Turkish yoke, which for so many years has
pressed heavily upon them.
I have confined myself in this letter to the more vital and im-
portant questions, and if there are any other matters dealt with in
your letter which I have omitted to mention, we may discuss them
at some convenient date in the future.
It was with very great relief and satisfaction that I heard of
the safe arrival of the Holy Carpet and the accompanying offerings
which, thanks to the clearness of your directions and the excel-
lence of your arrangements, were landed without trouble or mis-
hap in spite of the dangers and difficulties occasioned by the
present sad war. May God soon bring a lasting peace and freedom
to all peoples!
I am sending this letter by the hand of your trusted and
excellent messenger, Sheikh Mohammed Ibn Arif Ibn Uraifan,
and he will inform you of the various matters of interest, but of
less vital importance, which I have not mentioned in this letter.

3. From Sharif Husayn, 1 January 1916

We received from the bearer your letter, dated the 9th Safar (the
14th December, 1915), with great respect and honour, and I have
understood its contents, which caused me the greatest pleasure
and satisfaction, as it removed that which had made me uneasy.
Your honour will have realised, after the arrival of
Mohammed (Faroki) Sherif and his interview with you, that all
our procedure up to the present was of no personal inclination or
the like, which would have been wholly unintelligible, but that
everything was the result of the decisions and desires of our peo-
ples, and that we are but transmitters and executants of such deci-
sions and desires in the position they (our people) have pressed
upon us.
These truths are, in my opinion, very important and deserve
your honour’s special attention and consideration.
With regard to what had been stated in your honoured
communication concerning El Iraq as to the matter of compen-
sation for the period of occupation, we, in order to strengthen
the confidence of Great Britain in our attitude and in our words
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and actions, really and veritably, and in order to give her evi-
dence of our certainty and assurance in trusting her glorious
Government, leave the determination of the amount to the per-
ception of her wisdom and justice.
As regards the northern parts and their coasts, we have al-
ready stated in our previous letter what were the utmost possible
modifications, and all this was only done so to fulfill those aspira-
tions whose attainment is desired by the will of the Blessed and
Supreme God. It is this same feeling and desire which impelled us
to avoid what may possibly injure the alliance of Great Britain and
France and the agreement made between them during the present
wars and calamities; yet we find it our duty that the eminent min-
ister should be sure that, at the first opportunity after this war is
finished, we shall ask you (what we avert our eyes from to-day)
for what we now leave to France in Beirut and its coasts.
I do not find it necessary to draw your attention to the fact
that our plan is of greater security to the interests and protection of
the rights of Great Britain than it is to us, and will necessarily be so
whatever may happen, so that Great Britain may finally see her
friends in that contentment and advancement which she is endeav-
ouring to establish for them now, especially as her Allies being
neighbours to us will be the germ of difficulties and discussion with
which there will be no peaceful conditions. In addition to which
the citizens of Beirut will decidedly never accept such dismember-
ment, and they may oblige us to undertake new measures which
may exercise Great Britain, certainly not less than her present trou-
bles, because of our belief and certainty in the reciprocity and
indeed the identity of our interests, which is the only cause that
caused us never to care to negotiate with any other Power but you.
Consequently, it is impossible to allow any derogation that gives
France, or any other Power, a span of land in those regions.
I declare this, and I have a strong belief, which the living will
inherit from the dead, in the declarations which you give in the
conclusion of your honoured letter. Therefore, the honourable
and eminent Minister should believe and be sure, together with
Great Britain, that we still remain firm to our resolution which
Storrs learnt from us two years ago, for which we await the oppor-
tunity suitable to our situation, especially in view of that action
the time of which has now come near and which destiny drives
towards us with great haste and clearness, so that we and those
who are of our opinion may have reasons for such action against
any criticisms or responsibilities imposed upon us in future.
Your expression ‘‘we do not want to push you to any hasty
action which might jeopardise the success of your aim’’ does not
need any more explanation except what we may ask for, when
necessary, such as arms, ammunition, &c.
I deem this sufficient, as I have occupied much of your Hon-
our’s time. I beg to offer you my great veneration and respect.
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4. From Sir Henry McMahon, 25 January 1916
We have received with great pleasure and satisfaction your letter
of the 25th Safar (the 1st January) at the hands of your trusty
messenger, who has also transmitted to us your verbal messages.
We fully realise and entirely appreciate the motives which
guide you in this important question, and we know well that
you are acting entirely in the interests of the Arab peoples and
with no thought beyond their welfare.
We take note of your remarks concerning the vilayet of
Bagdad and will take the question into careful consideration
when the enemy has been defeated and the time for peaceful set-
tlement arrives.
As regards the northern parts, we note with satisfaction
your desire to avoid anything which might possibly injure the
alliance of Great Britain and France. It is, as you know, our fixed
determination that nothing shall be permitted to interfere in the
slightest degree with our united prosecution of this war to a vic-
torious conclusion. Moreover, when the victory has been won,
the friendship of Great Britain and France will become yet more
firm and enduring, cemented by the blood of Englishmen and
Frenchmen who have died side by side fighting for the cause of
right and liberty.
In this great cause Arabia is now associated, and God grant
that the result of our mutual efforts and co-operation will bind
us in a lasting friendship to the mutual welfare and happiness of
us all.
We are greatly pleased to hear of the action you are taking to
win all the Arabs over to our joint cause, and to dissuade them
from giving any assistance to our enemies, and we leave it to your
discretion to seize the most favourable moment for further and
more decided measures.
You will doubtless inform us by the bearer of this letter of
any manner in which we can assist you and your requests will
always receive our immediate consideration.
You will have heard how El Sayed Ahmed el Sherif el
Senussi has been beguiled by evil advice into hostile action, and
it will be a great grief to you to know that he has been so far
forgetful of the interests of the Arabs as to throw in his lot with
our enemies. Misfortune has now overtaken him, and we trust
that this will show him his error and lead him to peace for the
sake of his poor misguided followers.
We are sending this letter by the hand of your good mes-
senger, who will also bring to you all our news.

Source: J.C. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East: A Docu-
mentary Record: 1914–1956. (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company,
1956), 2:13–7.
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Document 5: The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916

In negotiations between Sir Mark Sykes, who represented the
British government, and his French counterpart, Charles François
Geoerge Picot, France and Great Britain defined their respective
spheres of influence and control in the Arab Middle East after the
downfall of the Ottoman Empire. The agreement contradicted some
of the promises made by the British in the Husayn–McMahon corre-

It is accordingly understood between the French and British

1. That France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and
protect an independent Arab States or a Confederation of
Arab States in the areas (A) and (B) marked on the annexed
map, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief. That in area (A)
France, and in area (B) Great Britain, shall have priority of
right of enterprise and local loans. That in area (A) France,
and in area (B) Great Britain, shall alone supply advisers or
foreign functionaries at the request of the Arab State or Con-
federation of Arab States.
2. That in the blue area France, and in the red area Great Brit-
ain, shall be allowed to establish such direct or indirect
administration or control as they desire and as they may
think fit to arrange with the Arab State or Confederation of
Arab States.
3. That in the brown area there shall be established an interna-
tional administration, the form of which is to be decided
upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in
consultation with the other Allies, and the representatives of
the Shereef of Mecca.
4. That Great Britain be accorded (1) the ports of Haifa and
Acre, (2) guarantee of a given supply of water from the
Tigris and Euphrates in area (A) for area (B). His Majesty’s
Government, on their part, undertake that they will at no
time enter into negotiations for the cession of Cyprus to
any third Power without the previous consent of the French
5. That Alexandretta shall be a free port as regards the trade of
the British Empire, and that there shall be no discrimination
in port charges or facilities as regards British shipping and
British goods; that there shall be freedom of transit for Brit-
ish goods through Alexandretta and by railway through the
blue area, whether those goods are intended for or originate
in the red area, or (B) area, or area (A); and there shall be
no discrimination, direct or indirect, against British goods
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on any railway or against British goods or ships at any port
serving the areas mentioned.
That Haifa shall be a free port as regards the trade of
France, her dominions and protectorates, and there shall be no
discrimination in port charges or facilities as regards French
shipping and French goods. There shall be freedom of transit
for French goods through Haifa and by the British railway
through the brown area, whether those goods are intended for
or originate in the blue area, area (A), or area (B), and there
shall be no discrimination, direct or indirect, against French
goods on any railway, or against French goods or ships at any
port serving the areas mentioned.
6. That in area (A) the Bagdad Railway shall not be extended
southwards beyond Mosul, and in area (B) northwards beyond
Samarra, until a railway connecting Bagdad with Aleppo via
the Euphrates Valley has been completed, and then only with
the concurrence of the two Governments.
7. That Great Britain has the right to build, administer, and be
sole owner of a railway connecting Haifa with area (B), and
shall have a perpetual right to transport troops along such a
line at all times.
It is to be understood by both Governments that this rail-
way is to facilitate the connextion of Bagdad with Haifa by rail,
and it is further understood that, if the engineering difficulties
and expense entailed by keeping this connecting line in the
brown area only make the project unfeasible, that the French
Government shall be prepared to consider that the line in ques-
tion may also traverse the polygon Banias-Keis Marib-Salkhad
Tell Otsda-Mesmie before reaching area (B).
8. For a period of twenty years the existing Turkish customs tariff
shall remain in force throughout the whole of the blue and red
areas, as well as in areas (A) and (B), and no increase in the
rates of duty or conversions from ad valorem to specific rates
shall be made except by agreement between the two powers.
There shall be no interior customs barriers between any
of the above-mentioned areas. The customs duties leviable on
goods destined for the interior shall be collected at the port
of entry and handed over to the administration of the area of
9. It shall be agreed that the French Government will at no time
enter into any negotiations for the cession of their rights and
will not cede such rights in the blue area to any third Power,
except the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States, without
the previous agreement of His Majesty’s Government, who, on
their part, will give a similar undertaking to the French Gov-
ernment regarding the red area.
10. The British and French Governments, as the protectors of the
Arab State, shall agree that they will not themselves acquire
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and will not consent to a third Power acquiring territorial pos-
sessions in the Arabian peninsula, nor consent to a third Power
installing a naval base either on the east coast, or on the
islands, of the Red Sea. This, however, shall not prevent such
adjustment of the Aden frontier as may be necessary in conse-
quence of recent Turkish aggression.
11. The negotiations with the Arabs as to the boundaries of the
Arab State or Confederation of Arab States shall be continued
through the same channel as heretofore on behalf of the two
12. It is agreed that measures to control the importation of
arms into the Arab territories will be considered by the two
I have further the honour to state that, in order to make
the agreement complete, His Majesty’s Government are propos-
ing to the Russian Government to exchange notes analogous to
those exchanged by the latter and your Excellency’s Govern-
ment on the 26th April last. Copies of these notes will be com-
municated to your Excellency as soon as exchanged.  

Source: J.C. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East: A Docu-
mentary Record 1535–1956, 2 vols. (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand
Company, Inc., 1956), 2:18–22.

Document 6: The Balfour Declaration of 1917

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was an official letter sent by
Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, to Lord Rothschild,
head of the British Zionist Federation, stating that the British govern-
ment viewed with favor the establishment of a Jewish national home
in Palestine.

Foreign Office
November 2, 1917
Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of
His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy
with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to,
and approved by, the Cabinet.
His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establish-
ment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and
will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this
object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done
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which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-
Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status
enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to
the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Yours sincerely,

Sources: Ian J. Bickerton and Carla L. Klausner, A Concise History of the

Arab-Israeli Conflict, 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002),
59–60. Walter Z. Laqueur and Barry Rubin, eds. The Israel-Arab Reader:
A Documentary History of The Middle East Conflict, 4th ed. (New York:
Penguin Books, 1984), 18. J.C. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and
Middle East: A Documentary Record 1535–1956, 2 vols. (Princeton, NJ:
D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1956), 2:25–6.
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acemi oglan Young Christian boys recruited through devşirme for service in
the palace.
aga/agha Master, chief, head.
aga of janissaries The commander or chief officer of the janissary corps.
akin Raid.
akinci A raider.
askeri Military, Ottoman ruling class.
ayans Local notables, autonomous local leaders, especially in the Ottoman
Bab-i Ali Sublime Porte.
bey Honorary title, prince or ruler in Anatolia in pre-Ottoman and early
Ottoman times, governor.
beylerbey Bey of the beys or governor-general in early Ottoman times.
beylerbeyilik Greater province governed by a beylerbey.
beylik Principality, region of Anatolia ruled by a bey.
birun The outer section of the palace.
cami Mosque.
capitulations Agreements with European states that offered privileges such
as reduction in customs duties.
caravansaray Hostel created to protect merchant caravans.
cel^alis Anatolian rebels against the central government in the sixteenth
cizye Poll tax paid by non-Muslims (zimmis).
cEelebi A title of honor and respect for individuals from the elite classes.
Also, the title for the head of a religious or mystical order.
cEoh^ad^ar aga The royal valet.
unun The house of sciences, modern university first conceived in
defterd^ar Treasurer, minister of finance.
derebey Autonomous local leader, especially in Ottoman Anatolia.
Glossary of Selected Terms
dervi+ Member of a mystic fraternity.
dev+irme Slaves of the sultans, recruited through the child levy, who
became Ottoman administrators and soldiers.
divan Council of state.
divan-i h€ um^ayun Imperial council, chief deliberative body of government.
emir/amir Prince, chief.
enderun The inner section of the palace.
esnaf Craftsmen, shopkeepers, small traders organized in guilds.
ey^alet A province.
ferm^an An imperial edict.
fetva Decision by şeyh€ ulisl^
am or a mufti declaring the legality of an action
under Islamic law.
gaz^a/ghaza Holy war in the name of Islam.
g^azi Fighter who fights infidels in the name of Islam.
grand vezir The chief minister.
hajj Pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
hammam Turkish bath.
khan/han Ruler, especially among the early Turks.
harem The secluded quarter where women’s apartments are located.
hatt-i h€ um^ayun Decree of the sultan, imperial edict.
hazine The treasury.
H€ ud^avendigar Lord or emperor.
h€ utbe The Friday sermon in which the sultan’s name was mentioned.
icE oglan Young slave of the sultan who received his education at the palace.
iqta/ikta Land held in exchange for military service under Seljuks.
Imam In Shia Islam, a leader descended from Ali who acts as the leader of
the community.
janissary The sultan’s infantry corps recruited from young Christian boys
who had been selected through devşirme.
jihad Holy war to defend or expand the rule of Islam.
k^adi Muslim judge.
k^azasker/k^adiasker The chief Islamic judge.
kafes The cage or the apartment in the imperial palace where a prince was
k^anun Imperial/secular/administrative law.
k^anunname Code of laws.
kapi Gate or Porte, a reference to the Ottoman government.
Kapi kullari Slaves of the Porte or sultan, who served as soldiers and
kapudan Captain at sea.
kapudan-i derya Grand admiral.
kizilba+ Literally ‘‘Red Heads,’’ a reference to Shia Muslim tribal groups
who supported the Safavid dynasty in Iran.
kul Slave.
madhhab One of the legal schools in Islam.
Glossary of Selected Terms
mamluk Military slave, especially in Egypt, and the name of the dynasty
that ruled Egypt and Syria from 1257 to 1517.
medrese Islamic school.
millet A state-recognized religious community.
milli misak National pact.
miri Lands owned by the sultan and the Ottoman government.
mufti A Muslim jurist and theologian who gave legal decisions and inter-
preted the Islamic law.
m€ulk Private property.
ni+^anci The official in the imperial council who controlled the tugra, or the
official seal of the Ottoman state, and drew up and certified all official
letters and decrees.
Nizam-i Cedid New Order or modern European-style reforms, including a
new army introduced by Selim II.
Osmanli Ottoman.
padi+ah Sovereign, ruler, king, emperor.
pa+a The highest title in the Ottoman governmental and military hierarchy.
pir The spiritual head and leader of a mystical or derviş order.
re^ay^a Literally, flock, the sultan’s tax paying subjects.
Rum Rome or Roman (Byzantine), Greek.
sancak Province in early Ottoman times, later a sub-province.
sancak bey Governor of a sancak.
segbans/sekbans ‘‘Keepers of hounds,’’ or salaried soldiers trained in using
firearms and serving an Ottoman governor.
Shia/Shiite Muslims who believe in following the guidance of divinely-
chosen imams; the minority in Islam.
Silahd^ar aga Guardian of the sultan’s arms.
sip^ahi Cavalryman.
sir k^atibi Sultan’s personal secretary.
sufi Mystic.
sultan Ruler, emperor.
Sunnah The practice of the Prophet Muhammad, taken as a religious and
legal model.
Sunni Muslims who believe in following the consensus (ijma) of the com-
munity of believers as expressed by the ulema; the majority in Islam.
*eriat Islamic law (Arabic: Sharia).
+eyh Elder, leader, and spiritual guide of a mystical fraternity.
+eyh€ ulisl^am Chief Mufti of the Ottoman Empire, head of the religious
Tanzimat ‘‘Reorganization.’’ The period of reform in the Ottoman Empire,
which began in 1839.
tekke A derviş lodge.
timar Miri land held in exchange for military service.
tugra Monogram used by Ottoman sultans to confirm the legality of a
Glossary of Selected Terms
ulema Muslim theologians/jurists who act as the experts and doctors of the
Islamic law.
vakif A tax-exempt pious foundation.
v^alide sultan Mother of the reigning sultan.
vezir Minister of state.
vil^ayet A province in later Ottoman times.
yeni cEeri Janissary.
z^aviye A hospice run and managed by dervişes for travelers.
zimmi/dhimmi Christians and Jews.

Historical Surveys
Akşin, Sina. 2007. Turkey from Empire to Revolutionary Republic: The Emer-
gence of the Turkish Nation from 1789 to the Present. Translated by
Dexter H. Mursaloglu. New York: New York University Press. A com-
prehensive survey of Ottoman and Turkish history from the rise of
pre-Ottoman Turks to the political challenges facing the Republic of
Turkey in the new century.
Finkel, Caroline. 2005. Osman’s Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire.
New York: Basic Books. A detailed account of the Ottoman Empire
from the formation of the state by Osman to its collapse in 1923.
Inalcik, Halil and Gunsel Renda, eds. 2002. Ottoman Civilization, 2 vols.
Ankara: Ministry of Culture. A two-volume set covering Ottoman his-
tory, culture, and civilization.
McCarthy, Justin. 1997. The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory History to 1923.
London, New York: Wesley Longman Limited. A history of the Otto-
man Empire from the establishment of the state to its downfall that
also contains valuable information about Ottoman society, culture,
and civilization.
Shaw, Stanford J. 1976. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Vol-
umes I and II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. A highly detailed
historical account of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey based on
Ottoman archives and primary Ottoman and modern Turkish sources.

Origins of the Ottoman Empire

Cahen, Claude. 2001. The Formation of Turkey: The Seljukid Sultanate of
Rum: Eleventh to Fourteenth Century. Translated and edited by P. M.
Annotated Bibliography
Holt. Longman Publishing Group. A historical analysis of the arrival
of Turcoman tribes in Asia Minor, the rise and fall of the Seljuk sul-
tanate of Rum, and the Turkification and Islamization of Anatolia.
Kafadar, Cemal. 1995. Between Two Worlds: The Construction of the Ottoman
State. Berkeley: University of California Press. An important study of
the early Ottoman state demonstrating how ethnic, tribal, linguistic,
religious, and political affiliations were at play in the struggle for
power in Anatolia and the Balkans.
opr€ul€u, M. Fuad. 1992. The Origins of the Ottoman Empire. Translated and
edited by Gary Leiser. Albany: State University of New York Press. A
seminal work by a brilliant Turkish scholar and historian who critiqued
the traditional European theories on the origins of the Ottoman Empire.
Lowry, Heath W. 2003. The Nature of the Early Ottoman State. Albany: State
University of New York Press. A critique of Paul Wittek’s theory and
an attempt to offer a new explanation on the origins and nature of the
early Ottoman state.
Wittek, Paul. 1938. The Rise of the Ottoman Empire. London: The Royal Asi-
atic Society. An attempt to identify the origins of the Ottoman Empire
in the religious zeal of the Turkish gazis to convert the Christian pop-
ulation of western Anatolia and the Balkans.

Ottoman History and Society in the ‘‘Classical’’ Era

Cook, M.A., ed. 1976. A History of the Ottoman Empire to 1730. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. A useful account of the reigns of Bayezid
II, Selim I, S€uleyman the Magnificent, and Murad IV as well as the
retreat of the Ottomans from Europe in the eighteenth century written
by J.S. Bromely, Halil Inalcik, A.N. Kurat, and V.J. Parry.
Gibbons, Herbert Adams. 1916. The Foundations of the Ottoman Empire: A
History of the Osmanlis up to the Death of Bayezid I, 1300–1403. New
York: The Century Co. This book provides a detailed study tracing
the life and career of Osman and his descendants, Orhan, Murad, and
Bayezid, who laid the foundations of the Ottoman Empire.
Imber, Colin. 2002. The Ottoman Empire, 1300–1650: The Structure of Power.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan. A brief and comprehensive survey of
the Ottoman history followed by an analysis of the internal structure
of the Ottoman system that includes an in-depth discussion of the
succession process, the palace, the provinces, the legal system, and
the military organization of the empire.
Inalcik, Halil. 1973. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300–1600. Trans-
lated by Norman Itzkowitz and Colin Imber. New York: Praeger
Annotated Bibliography
Publishers. An analysis of the history of the Ottoman Empire from 1300
to 1600 that includes a discussion of the institutions that were responsi-
ble for the strength and cohesion of the Ottoman administrative system.
Kunt, Metin and Christine Woodhead, eds. 1995. S€ uleyman the Magnificent
and His Age. London: Longman House. A collection of essays about
the administration, politics, and socio-economic transformation of the
Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century.
Lybyer, Howe Albert. 1913. The Government of the Ottoman Empire in the
Time of Suleiman the Magnificent. Cambridge: Harvard University
Press. This book focuses on the governmental institutions of the Otto-
man Empire during the reign of S€ uleyman the Magnificent.
Naima, Mustafa (Mustafa Naim). 1973. Annals of the Turkish Empire from 1591
to 1659 of the Christian Era. Translated by Charles Fraser. London: Arno
Press. A history of the most important events that transpired in the
Ottoman Empire from 1591 to 1659 by a well-known Ottoman historian
and annalist.
Sugar, Peter. 1977. Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 1354–1805.
Seattle: University of Washington Press. A comprehensive portrait of
the Balkans under Ottoman rule, describing the religious, political,
and economic features of the Ottoman state.
Tursun Beg. 1978. The History of Mehmed the Conqueror. Translated by Halil
Inalcik and Murphey Rhoads. Minneapolis: Bibliotheca Islamica. A
history of the life and accomplishments of Mehmed II, conqueror of
Ugur, Ahmet. 1985. The Reign of Sultan Selim I in the Light of the Selim-Name
Literature. Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag. A study of the reign of Selim I
based on the historical works, which focus on his life and achievements.

Ottoman Institutions and Governmental Reforms

Davison, Roderic H. 1973. Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 1856–1876. New
York: Gordian Press. An analytical study of the reforms implemented
by the Ottoman government from 1856 to 1876.
Findley, Carter V. 1980. Bureaucratic Reform in the Ottoman Empire: The Sub-
lime Porte, 1789–1922. Princeton: Princeton University Press. A com-
prehensive study of the rise of the modern bureaucracy in the Ottoman
Empire with a particular emphasis on the reforms implemented from
the reign of Selim III to the end of the Young Turk period.
Goodwin, Godfrey. 1994. The Janissaries. London: Saqi Books. Explores the
origins, the rise and the decline of the janissaries, the elite troops of
the Ottoman Empire until they were dissolved by Mahmud II in 1826.
Annotated Bibliography
Inalcik, Halil. 1976. Application of the Tanzimat and Its Social Effects. Lisse:
Peter de Ridder. This work studies the impact of the reforms imple-
mented during the era of Tanzimat in various provinces of the empire.
Karpat, Kemal H. and Robert W. Zens. 2003. Ottoman Borderlands: Issues,
Personalities and Political Change. Madison: University of Wisconsin
Press. A collection of essays on a variety of issues such as the status
of central government authority on the Ottoman frontiers, the admin-
istrative structures of the Danubian Principalities, the tribal principal-
ities, and the provincial administration in eastern and southeastern
Europe, Anatolia, as well as the nature of the Safavid-Ottoman frontier
and the Ottoman borderlands in Yemen, Albania, and north Caucasus.
Shaw, Stanford J. 1971. Between Old and New: The Ottoman Empire under
Sultan Selim III 1789–1807. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. An
excellent account of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the military
defeats suffered at the hands of Russia and the Habsburgs, and the
reforms introduced during the reign of Selim III (1789–1807).

Ottoman History and Society in the ‘‘Modern’’ Era

Ahmad, Feroz. 1969. The Young Turks: The Committee of Union and Progress
in Turkish Politics. Oxford: Clarendon Press. A political history of the
Young Turks, with a particular emphasis on the events that led to the
revolution of 1908 and the opposition that emerged against the Young
Turks and forced them to consolidate power through military means.
Hanioglu, M. Şukru. 2001. Preparation for a Revolution: The Young Turks, 1902–1908.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. A historical analysis of the Young
Turk movement based on Ottoman archives and other primary sources.
Jelavich, Charles and Barbara. 1977. The Establishment of the Balkan
National States, 1804–1920. Seattle: University of Washington Press. A
historical account of the emergence of modern nation states in the
Balkans during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Jelavich, Barbara. 1983. History of the Balkans: Eighteenth and Nineteenth
Centuries, Volume I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. A com-
prehensive history of the Balkans and the process through which the
modern nation states of southeastern Europe emerged from the disin-
tegration of the Ottoman Empire.
Kansu, Aykut. 1997. The Revolution of 1908 in Turkey. Leiden: E.J. Brill. An
analytical study of the events that led to the victory of the Young Turk
revolution and its immediate aftermath.
Kushner, David. 1977. The Rise of Turkish Nationalism, 1876–1908. London:
Frank Cass. A comprehensive study of the origins of cultural
Annotated Bibliography
nationalism among the Turks from the introduction of the first Otto-
man constitution in 1876 to the Young Turk revolution of 1908.
Lewis, Bernard. 1961. The Emergence of Modern Turkey. London: Oxford
University Press. A classic that traces the impact of European ideas
and institutions on the Ottoman Empire.
Quataert, Donald. 2000. The Ottoman Empire 1700–1922. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. An examination of the major political,
social, and economic trends during the last two centuries of Ottoman
rule that pays special attention to important topics such as gender,
population, transportation, and agricultural production.
urcher, Erik-Jan. 2004. Turkey: A Modern History. London: I. B. Tauris. An
excellent history of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey that extends from
the end of the eighteenth century to the present.

Intellectual and Cultural History

of the Ottoman Empire
Berkes, Niyazi. 1964. The Development of Secularism in Turkey. Montreal:
McGill University Press. An important study of the intellectual history
of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey during the last two centuries.
Braude, Benjamin and Bernard Lewis, eds. 1982. Christians and Jews in the
Ottoman Empire, 2 vols. New York: Holmes and Meier. An examination
of the role of the millet system as well as the status of Jews and Christians
in the Ottoman Empire.
Edib, Halide. 2004. Memoirs of Halide Edib. New York: Gorgias Press. The
memoirs of Halide Edib Adivar (1882–1964), one of the most prolific
Turkish women writers and politicians in the twentieth century.
Faroqhi, Suraiya. 2004. The Ottoman Empire and the World around It. London:
I. B. Tauris. A study based on original sources that explores the long-
established network of diplomatic, financial, and cultural connections
between the Ottoman Empire and the rest of the world.
Faroqhi, Suraiya. 2000. Subjects of the Sultan: Culture and Daily Life in the Otto-
man Empire. London: I.B. Tauris. A fascinating exploration of the daily life
and the most basic activities of the people who lived under Ottoman rule.
okalp, Ziya. 1959. Turkish Nationalism and Western Civilization: Selected
essays of Ziya G€ okalp. Translated and edited by Niyazi Berkes. New
York: Columbia University Press. Selected essays on Turkish national-
ism and its relationship to Islam and western civilization.
Mardin, Şerif. 1963. The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought: A Study in
the Modernization of Turkish Political Ideas. Princeton: Princeton
Annotated Bibliography
University Press. A classic, which provides an in-depth analysis of the
ideology and politics of the Young Ottoman movement.
Peirce, Leslie P. 1993. The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the
Ottoman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press. Winner of the
M. Fuad K€ opr€ul€
u Book Prize, this book examines the sources of
the power of the women of the imperial harem as they played a crucial
role in the politics and culture of the Ottoman Empire.

Social and Economic History of the Ottoman Empire

Inalcik, Halil. 1994. An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire:
1300–1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. A detailed and
analytical account of the social and economic history of the Ottoman
Empire from the end of the sixteenth century to the beginning of the
First World War.
Inalcik, Halil. 1995. From Empire to Republic, Essays on Ottoman and Turkish
Social History. Istanbul: Isis Press. A collection of essays on a range of
subjects such as Ottoman historiography, social structure of the Otto-
man Empire, and the status of Jews under Ottoman system.
Inalcik, Halil. 1993. The Middle East and the Balkans under the Ottoman
Empire: Essays on Economy and Society. Bloomington: Indiana Univer-
sity Turkish Studies. A collection of essays that examine the state,
society, economy, and politics of the Ottoman Empire.
Issawi, Charles. 1980. The Economic History of Turkey, 1800–1914. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press. A collection of primary texts and docu-
ments focusing on the economic transformation of the Ottoman Empire
in the nineteenth and the first decade of the twentieth century.
Kasaba, Reşat. 1988. The Ottoman Empire and the World Economy: The Nine-
teenth Century. Albany: State University of New York Press. A study of
the Ottoman economic transformation with a focus on the status and
impact of the Christian capitalist class in the empire.
Owen, Roger. 1982. The Middle East in the World Economy, 1800–1914. New
York: Meethuen. An economic history of the Middle East and the
Ottoman Empire with a particular focus on the nineteenth and the
first decade of the twentieth century.

Ottoman Rulers, Statesmen, and Scholars

Aksan, Virginia H. 1995. An Ottoman Statesman in War and Peace: Ahmed
Resmi Efendi, 1700–1783. Leiden: E.J. Brill. A fascinating analysis of the
Ottoman history and society during the eighteenth century through a
Annotated Bibliography
discussion of the life and career of Ahmed Resmi Efendi who rose as a
scribe (katib) to a high level official and an ambassador in the Ottoman
central administration.
Alderson, AD. 1956. Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty. Oxford: Clarendon
Press. This book discusses the genealogy of the Ottoman royal family
and identifies the customs, rules, and the principles that regulated the
relations among its members.
Çelebi, Evliya. 1991. The Intimate Life of an Ottoman Statesman: Melek
Ahmad Pasha, 1588–1662. Translated by Robert Dankoff. Albany: State
University of New York Press. A selection of passages from Evliya Cel-
ebi’s Travels (Siyahatname/ Seyahatnamesi) that focus on the life of
Celebi’s patron, Melek Ahmed Paşa, who was an influential govern-
ment official and military leader.
Djemal Pasha. 1973. Memories of a Turkish Statesman, 1913–1919. New
York: Arno Press. The recollections of an important and controversial
Young Turk leader who played a crucial role in Ottoman politics from
1913 to the end of the First World War.
Fleischer, Cornell H. 1996. Bureaucrat and Intellectual in the Ottoman
Empire: The historian Mustafa Ali ^ (1541–1600). Princeton: Princeton
University Press. A fascinating study of the making of a sixteenth cen-
tury Ottoman statesman, scholar, historian, and poet.

Reference Works
Bayerle, Gustav. 1997. Pashas, Begs and Effendis: A Historical Dictionary of
Titles and Terms in the Ottoman Empire. Istanbul: Isis Press. A useful
compilation and glossary of Ottoman historical terms.
Cicek, Kemal, ed. 2000. The Great Ottoman Turkish Civilization, 4 vols.
Ankara: Yeni Turkiye. A four-volume study of the Ottoman Empire
and its history, politics, culture and economy by a group of Turkish
and non-Turkish scholars.
Hurewitz, J.C. 1956. Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East: A Documentary
Record: 1535–1914, 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company,
Inc. A valuable collection of treaties and agreements in English trans-
lation that relate to the political and military developments in the
Ottoman Empire and the rest of the Middle East from 1535 to 1956.
Somel, Selcuk Aksin. 2003. Historical Dictionary of the Ottoman Empire. Lan-
ham, MD: Scarecrow Press. This book contains a detailed chronology
of Ottoman history as well as entries on the sultans, influential states-
men, thinkers, intellectuals, events, and institutions that shaped the
Ottoman Empire.
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Abaza Hasan Pasa, 77 Akkerman, fortress of, 46

Abaza Mehmed Pasa, 68, 71, 72 
Akos Barcsay (Barkczai), 77
Abbas, shah of Iran, 62, 64–66, 71, 72 Aksehir, 28
Abdulaziz ibn Saud, 143 Albania, 33, 34, 44, 47, 80, 107,
Abd€ulaziz, 120, 121 124, 126, 128, 129, 141
Abd€ulhamid I, 97, 98, 99 Aleppo, 50, 84, 112
Abd€ulhamid II, 122, 123, 125, Alexander, Prince of Bulgaria,
133, 145, 155–56 127
Abd€ulmecid, 115, 120, 152 Alexander VII, Pope, 78
Abode of Felicity, 6 Alexandria, 102, 126
Abukir (Aboukir), 102 Alexis, Czar, 79
Acre, 102, 143 Algiers, French occupation of,
Aden, 59 111, 125
Adrianople (Edirne), 24, 25 Ali Pasa, 121
Adriatic, 124 Alp Arsalan, 17, 18
Adriatic coast, 47 Amasra, 44
Aegean Sea, 22, 31, 39, 47 Amasya, 28
Afghani, Sayyid Jamal ud-Din, 133 Amcaz^ade H€ useyin Pasa, 82
Afghanistan, 27, 51, 87 Amu Darya, 17. See Oxus
ga, of the janissary corps, 7 Anatolia, 6, 18, 19, 20, 28, 29,
Aghia Lavra, monastery of, 108 32, 39, 64, 133, 146, 149,
Ahmad Urabi Pasa, 126 150, 151
Ahmed Cezzar Pasa, 102 Andronicus, Byzantine emperor, 23
Ahmed I, 63, 65, 66 Ankara, 28, 45, 148, 150; battle of,
Ahmed II, 81 28, 31
Ahmed III, 83 Antalya, 30
Ahmed Riza, 138, 140 Apafi (Apaffy), Mihail, 77
Ahmed Samim, 140 Arab Middle East, 27, 133, 144
Ak Koyunlu (White Sheep) Arab provinces, 125, 152
Turcomans, 42, 43, 44 Arabian Peninsula, 97
akincis, 21 Ardahan, 123, 149
Armenia, 17, 51, 62, 65, 87, 123, Belgrade, 32, 42, 51, 80, 81, 85, 106
144–47, 149 Bell (Hunchak), 145
Armenian Revolutionary Benghazi, 140
Federation, ARF (Hay Berlin Memorandum, 122
Heghapokhakan Dashnaktsutiun), Bessarabia, 119, 122, 124
145 beylerbey, bey of the beys, 9
Armistice of Mudanya, 151 birun, 5
Armistice of Mudros, 146 Bishop Germanos, 108
Arta, 129 Bitola, 128
Ashraf, Afghan ruler of Iran, 88 Black Death, 23
Asia Minor, 17, 18, 20 Black Sea, 23, 27, 39, 44, 47, 78,
askeri, 1 92, 119, 122
Astrakhan, 87 Blue Mosque, 66
Athens, 80, 130 Bocskai, Stefan, 63
August III, king of Poland, 95 Bohemia, 27
Austria, 27, 60, 124, 131 Boniface IX, Pope, 27
Austro-Hungarian Empire, 139, 142 Bolshevik Communist Party, 149
Aya Sofya, 40, 145 Bolshevik Revolution, 144
ayans, 97, 100, 101, 103, 107 Bosnia, 42, 62, 80, 81, 91
Aydin, 27, 30, 150 Bosnia-Herzegovina, 91, 120–22,
Aynalikavak Convention, 98 139
Azerbaijan, 17, 49, 51, 53, 61, 64, Bosphorus, 40, 41, 86, 146
65, 73, 87, 88, 149 Brankovic, Djordje (George), 31, 32
Azov, 74, 82, 91 Bucharest, 63, 99
Buda, 33, 52, 79
Baghdad, 17, 27, 54, 65, 71, 72, Budapest, 54
73, 90, 121, 143, 146 Bulgaria, 22, 23, 25–27, 32, 33, 81,
B^aki (Mahmud Abd€ ulb^aki), 54 96, 103, 122–27, 130, 139, 141
Baku, 144 Bursa, 22, 28, 30, 45, 150, 151
Balfour Declaration, 144 Busati family, 128
Balfour, Arthur James, 144 Byzantine Empire, 18–24
Balkans, 20, 23, 24, 32, 39, 95, Byzantine Greeks, 4
106, 109, 118, 122, 123, 138
Baltaci Mehmed, 84 Cagalaz^ade Sinan Pasa, 63
Banat of Temesvar, 82, 85 Cairo, 50, 102, 126, 132
Bar, district of, 129 Calvinism, 51
Barbossa (Barbaros), 52 Candar, 31

Barcsay (Barkczai), Akos, 77 Cantacuzenus, John, 23, 24
Baskent, battle of, 43 Cape of Good Hope, 12
Basra, 98, 142, 143 Castriotes, George (Skanderbeg),
Batumi, 123 32, 33
Bayezid I, 26–28, 31 Catherine the Great, 92, 95, 96,
Bayezid II, 44–48 98, 99
Bayrakd^ar Mustafa Pasa, 103–5 Caucasus, 6, 17, 61, 64, 65, 73,
Beirut, 119 89, 90, 97, 123, 147, 149
Cel^ali revolts, 63, 64, 65, 76, 77 Çerkes Mehmed, 71
Cem, son of Mehmed II, 44–46 Çesme, 96
Cemal Pasa, 142, 146 Çoh^ad^ar aga, 7
Central Asia, 4, 5, 12, 17, 19, 28,
29, 39, 49, 51, 132 Daghistan, 62, 87
Ch^aldiran (Ch^alduran), 49, 53 Dalmatia, 25
Charles V, Habsburg emperor, 51, 52 Dalmatian coast, 80
Charles VIII, king of France, 46 Damad Ferid Pasa, 148
Charles XII, king of Sweden, Damad Ibrahim Pasa, 86
83–85 Damascus, 39, 50, 77, 111, 119, 146
Chengiz Khan, 19 Dandanqan, 17
Chermanon (Chernomen), 26 Danube, 27, 119
China, 12, 28 Danubian Principalities, 67, 97,
Cilicia, 50, 149, 150 107, 118
cizye (poll tax), 2 Dar ul-Islam, 21
coffee, prohibition of, 73 Dar u€s-Saade (the House of
Committee of Union and Progress Felicity), 59
_ ad ve Terakki
(CUP). See Ittih^ Darbend, 87
Cemiyeti Dardanelles, 74–77, 141, 143, 146
Comte de Bonneval, Claude- defterd^ars, 6
Alexandre, 89 Dervis Mehmed Aga, 64
Comte, Auguste, 138 dervis orders, 3
Concert of Europe, 119 dervises, 3, 47, 139
Congress of Berlin, 123–25, 126, devsirme, 2, 6, 10, 46, 67, 76
127, 129, 144, 145 div^
an, 6, 41
Congress of Vienna, 119 divan-i h€ um^ayun, 6
Constantine XI, last Byzantine Diyarbakir, 27, 48
emperor, 40 Dnieper Cossacks, 78
Constantinople Agreement of Dnieper, 79
1915, 142 Dobrudja, 30, 124
Constantinople, 6, 18, 22, 23, 25, Dodecanese Islands, 141
27, 29, 39, 40–41 Don Juan, 60
Constitution, Ottoman, 122, 123 Druze, 117, 119
Corfu, 52 Dulkadir/Dulgadir, 43, 45, 48, 50
Coron, 42, 47 Dusan, Stephan, 22–25
Cos, 152
Cossacks, 73, 74, 78–80 East Rumelia, 123, 127, 130, 139
Crete, 74, 75, 78, 108, 120, 127, 130 Edirne, 7, 28, 32, 83, 109, 141,
Crimea, 10, 54, 91, 95, 96, 98, 132 142, 150
Crimean Tatars, 44, 46, 59, 63, 67, Egypt, 27, 50, 53, 72, 102, 104,
78, 80, 95, 96, 98, 132 108, 111, 117, 126, 143
Crimean War, 118, 119, 122 Elqas Mirza, Safavid prince, 54
Croatia, 81, 85 enderun, 5
Cyprus, 13, 59, 60, 142, 152 England (Great Britain), 24, 27,
Çandarli Halil, 30, 33, 40, 41 61, 118, 126
Enver Pasa, 141, 142, 146 Germiyan, 26–28
Epirus, 124, 126, 129 Ghaznavid dynasty, 17
Erivan, 65, 66, 73, 90, 91, 149 Giurgiu (Yerg€og€
u), 30
Ertugril, father of Osman, 20 Grand National Assembly, 148,
Erzurum, 28, 68, 71, 109, 144, 147 150–52
Eskisehir, 21 Greater Syria, 143
Esmahan, daughter of Selim II, 59 Greece, 80, 106, 108, 110, 120,
Ethnike Hetairia (The National 124, 126–30, 139, 141
Society), 130 Greek Revolution, 107–9, 111
Euboia, Islands of, 44 Gulf of Iznik, 24
Eugene of Savoy, 81, 85, 89 Gusinje, 129
eunuchs, 5, 6, 41
Euphrates, 20 Habsburgs, 51, 52, 61–63, 74,
78–80, 82, 83, 84, 91, 92, 96,
Faisal, son of Sharif Husayn of 102, 120
Mecca, 143, 146 Haç Ova. See Mez€ okeresztes
Famagusta, 60 Halil Hamid Pasa, 98
Fatih Mosque, 41 Halil, son of Orhan, 24, 25
Fazil Ahmed Pasa, (K€ opr€
ul€uz^ade Hamedan, 72, 90
Fazil Ahmed Pasa), 77–78 Hamid, 26–28, 30, 33
Fazil Mustafa Pasa, (K€opr€
ul€uz^ade Hamidiye regiment, 145
Fazil Mustafa Pasa), 81 harem, 5–6, 10, 60, 61, 66, 73, 75,
Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, 127 80, 86
Ferdinand, Archduke Franz, 125 Hatay, 152
Feyzullah Effendi, 83 Hatt-i H€ um^ayun (Imperial Edict), 118
Finland, 99 Hatti-i Serif-i G€
ulhane (The Noble
France, 24, 46, 51, 83, 95, 101, Edict of the Rose Garden), 115
102, 111, 118, 126, 137, 142, 143 Hayreddin Pasa, 52
Francis I, king of France, 51, 52 Hayrullah Effendi, 121
Franco-Prussian War, 122 Hermanstadt, battle of, 32
French Revolution, 99, 101 Hest Behist (Eight Heavens), 47
Fuad Pasa, 121 Hetairia, 108
Fuzuli, 54 Hijaz railroad, 125
Hijaz, 50, 54, 125
Gallipoli, 23, 24, 30, 143, 147 Hundred Years War, 24
Ganja, 88, 90 Hungary, 25, 29, 31, 42, 51, 52,
Gate of Felicity, 5 79, 80, 82, 99, 108, 120
a/ghaza (holy war), 21 Hunyadi, Janos, 32, 33, 34
Gedik Ahmed Pasa, 45 Husrev Pasa, 72
Geneva, 138 H€
urrem Sultan (Roxelana), 54
Genoa, 29, 44 Hussein, shah of Iran, 87
George, Prince of Greece, 130
Georgia, 51, 62, 66, 87, 88, 149 Ibn Battuta, 22
Germanos, Bishop, 108 Ibrahim (Deli Ibrahim, Ibrahim the
Germany, 133, 142 Mad), 66, 73, 74
Ibrahim Pasa, son of Muhammad Jerusalem, 50
Ali of Egypt, 108, 111, 112, 117 Jews, 1, 2, 139, 144
iç o
ans, 7
Idris Bitlisi, 47 k^
adis, 3, 10
Il Khanid dynasty, 19, 20 Kaffa, 44
Imam Yahya, 141 Kagul, 96
Imperial Council, 6 Kalavryta, 108
India, 12, 27, 28 Kamenec, 80
Innocent VI, Pope, 24 k^
anun, 3, 5
Innocent VIII, Pope, 46 kapi kull^ari, 2, 7, 46
In€ on€
u (river), 150 Kapudan-i dery^ a, 52
Interregnum (Fetret), 28 Kara George (Karajordje), 106
Iraklion (Herakleion), 78 Kara Koyunlu (Black Sheep),
Iran, 12, 17, 20, 23, 27, 39, 53, Turcomans, 43
66, 88–90, 108 Kara Murad Aga (Pasa), 75
Iraq, 51, 54, 65, 71, 72, 89, 90, Karabagh, 62
97, 98, 142, 143, 152 Karaman, 26, 27, 31, 33, 43, 45
Irene, Byzantine princess, 25 Karamani Mehmed Pasa, 44
Isa, son of Bayezid, 28, 29 Karbala, 65, 97
Isak Pasa, 45 Karim Khan Zand, ruler of Iran,
Isfahan, 66, 87, 90 98
Islamic courts, 2 Karlowitz, 82
Islamic holy sites, 50 Kars, 65, 91, 119, 123, 149
Ismail, shah of Iran, 49, 53 Kayseri, 28
Ismail II, shah of Iran, 61 k^
azaker/k^ adiasker, 6
Ismet Pasa (In€ on€
u), 148, 150, 151 K^azim Pasa (Karabekir), 149
Istanbul, 7, 41, 44, 75, 76, 83, Kemal Pasazade, 47
108, 119, 122, 123, 128, 133, Kemankes Kara Ali Pasa, 71
139, 141, 146, 148, 152 Kemankes Kara Mustafa Pasa, 74
Italy, 27, 44, 52, 133 Kemeny, J^anos, 77
_ ad ve Terakki Cemiyeti,
Ittih^ Kermanshah, 88
Committee of Union and Kharazm Shah, 19
Progress (CUP), 137, 138, 140, Kharput, 48
141, 146 Khedive Abbas Hilmi II, 142
_ ad-i Osm^
Ittih^ ani Cemiyeti (Ottoman Khedive Ismail, 126
Unity Society), 137 Khedive Said, 126
Izmir (Smyrna), 28, 147, 150, 151 Khorasan, 17, 19, 51, 62, 88
Izmit, 22, 23, 150 Kilia, fortress of, 46
Iznik, 22 Kirklareli/Kirkkilise, battle of,
Jaffa, 143 Kirkuk, 27, 90
Janina, 128, 141 Kizil Elma (Red Apple), 40
janissaries (yeni çeri) 6, 7, 40, 43, Kizilbas, 49, 53, 64
45, 64, 67, 68, 75, 77, 81, 83, Knights of Hospitallers, 44, 52
99, 101, 102, 104, 105, 110, 120 Knights of Rhodes, 43
Koca Yusuf, 99 Mani, 108, 109
Konya, 3, 20, 45, 111 Manuel, Byzantine Emperor, 29
Korkud, son of Bayezid II, 48 Manzikert (Malazgird), battle of, 18
Kosovo Polje (Field of the Maragheh, 88
Blackbirds), battle of, 26 Maras, 149
Kosovo, second battle of, 34 Marc D^abik (Marj D^abiq), 50
uz^ade Fazil Ahmed Pasa, 77 Mardin, 27
uz^ade Fazil Mustafa Pasa, Maritsa (river), 26
80 Maronite Christians, 2, 117, 119
osed^ag, battle of, 19 Martin Luther, 51
osem Sultan, 66, 67, 71, 74, 75 Marv, 17
Kumanovo, battle of, 141 Matheos, son of John Catacuzenus,
Kurdistan, 49, 62, 64, 90 25
Kuyucu Murad Pasa, 65 Mazepa, Cossack leader, 84
uk Kaynarca, 96 McMahon, Henry, 143
utahya, 111 Mecca, 50, 67, 125
Medina, 50, 125
Lake Urumiyya, 65 Mediterranean Sea, 23, 28, 47
Lake Van, 18, 49 Mehmed I, 29–30
larder chamber, 7 Mehmed II, 6, 33, 40, 41,
Lazar, Prince of Serbia, 26 44, 157–58
League of Prizren, 129 Mehmed III, 62, 63, 65
Lebanon, 72, 117, 119, 120 Mehmed IV, 74, 75, 78
Lemnos, 44 Mehmed V, 140
Leopold, Habsburg Emperor, 81 Mehmed, Prince of Karaman, 28
Lepanto, 44, 47, 60 Mehmed K€ opr€ul€
u (K€opr€
Levant, 119 Mehmed Pasa), 76–77
Libya, Italian invasion of, 140, 141 Mentese, 27, 30
Lispos, 152 Mere H€ useyin Pasa, 67
Lord Byron, 109 Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasa, 78, 79
Lord Rothschild, 144 Mez€ okeresztes (Haç Ova), 63
Louis XIV, king of France, 89 Michael, Prince of Wallachia, 62, 63
Louis XVI, king of France, 102 Middle East, 1, 12, 19, 27, 29,
L€uleburgaz, battle of, 141 53, 98, 102, 133, 143, 144, 146,
Macedonia, 25, 26, 124, 126, 127, Midhat Pasa, 121, 122, 125
130, 131, 138, 140 Mihail Apafi (Apaffy), 77
Mahmud, Afghan ruler of Iran, 87 millet system, 105
Mahmud I, 89, 92 millets, 1–2
Mahmud II, 103, 104, 110–12, milli misak, 147
116, 128, 157 Mircea, Prince of Wallachia, 27, 30
Mahmud Sevket Pasa, 140–42 miri (crown lands), 8
Malik Shah, 19 Missolonghi, 109
Malta, 79, 148 Modon, 42, 47
Mamluks, 43, 45, 50, 97 Mohacs, battle of, 52
Moldavia, 10, 46, 62, 63, 67, 80, Nicholas I, czar of Russia, 111, 118
91, 95, 97, 106–7, 109, 118–19 Nicholas II, czar of Russia, 145
Mongol invasion, 19, 20 Nicomedia (Izmit), 22, 23
Montenegro, 120–24, 126, 128, 129 Nicopolis, 27, 63
Mora, wife of Murad II, 32 Nis (Nish), 26, 32, 81, 106, 121
Morea, 33, 42, 47, 80, 85, 96, 108. nisa^nci, 6
See Peloponnese Nishapur, 19
Mosul, 27, 65, 90, 143, 152 Niyazi Bey, 140
Muhammad, Prophet of Islam, 49, Nizam-i Cedid Ordusu (Army of the
143 New Order), 100, 102, 103
Muhammad Ali (Mehmed Ali) of North Africa, 52, 60, 111
Egypt, 104, 108, 111, 112, 117, Novi Pazar, sancak of, 124
ulk (private land), 8 Nur Banu Sultan, 59, 60
Murad I, 3, 25–26
Murad II, 30–34 Obrenoviç, Milos, 106, 107
Murad III, 59, 60, 62 €
Omer Pasa, 121
Murad IV, 71–73, 91 Organic Statute for Lebanon, 119
Murad Bey, 138 Orhan, 3, 22–25
Musa Kazim, 49 Orlov, Admiral, 96
Musa, son of Bayezid I, 28, 29 Orsova, 27
Muscovy, 46 Osman, 3, 20–22, 132, 160
Mustafa I, 66, 67 Osman II, 66–67
Mustafa II, 81–83 Osman III, 92
Mustafa III, 92, 97 Ottoman Socialist Party, 140
Mustafa IV, 103, 105 Outer Mongolia, 17
Mustafa (D€ uzme Mustafa, the Oxus, 17. See Amu Darya
False Mustafa), 30
Mustafa, son of S€uleyman the p^
adisah, 4, 41
Magnificent, 54 palace, 5–6
Mustafa Kemal Pasa, 147–52, Palaeologus, Emperor John V, 24, 25
156–57 Palaeologus family, 23
Mustafa Resid Pasa, 115, 121, Palestine, 111, 117, 118, 143, 147
158–59 Palmerston, British Prime Minister,
Nader, shah of Iran, 88–92 Pan-Islamism, 132, 133
Najaf, 65, 97 Pan-Slavism, 120, 133
Najd, 97, 143 Paris Peace Conference, 118–19
Nakhchivan, 64 Patrona Halil, 88–89
Napoleon, 102, 119 Peloponnese, 109. See Morea
Navarino, 47, 109, 111 Persian Gulf, 13, 51
Nestorians, 2 Peter the Great, 82, 83, 87, 95
Netherlands, 99 Petrovaradin, 85
Neuh^ausel (Ujvar), battle of, 78 Picot, Charles François Georges,
New Julfa, 66 143
Nicaea (Iznik), 22 Plav, district of, 129
Plevna, 123 Sa’dabad, 86
Ploçnik (Ploshnik), 26 S^adeq Khan, 98
Podgorica, district of, 129 Safavid dynasty, 48, 49, 53, 61, 65,
Podole (Podolya), 78, 80, 82 73, 91
Poland, 27, 46, 63, 73, 74, 78–80, Safi, shah of Iran, 72
82, 96 Safiye Sultan, 60, 63
Pol-e Shekasteh, 67 Sakarya, battle of, 150
Poltava, 84 Salonica, 24, 26, 28, 31, 138, 141
Poniatowski, Stanislaw, 95 Samarqand (Afrasiyab), 19
printing press, 87 Sana, 59
Pristina, 26 sancak beys, 9, 10
privy chamber, 7 Sanusiya religious order, 141
Prussia, 96 Sarajevo, 125
Pugachev Rebellion, 96, 98 Sarakhs, 17
Saruhan, 27
Qajar dynasty, 108, 132 Saud family, 97
Qansu al-Ghawri, 50 school for girls, 125
Qasr-i Shirin/Kasr-i Sirin, 73 Scotland, 27
Qazvin, 88 Sea of Marmara, 22, 23
Qiyassudin Kay Khosrow II, 19 Segban-i Cedid (New Dog Keepers),
Quran, 116, 128 104, 105
Selim I, 48, 50, 71, 132, 160–61
Rakoczi (Rakoczy), George, 77 Selim II, 11, 13, 54, 59–60
Ray, 17, 19 Selim III, 99, 100–1, 104, 106,
Raydaniyya, 50 110, 161
a, 1 Seljuks of Anatolia, 19–20
Red Sea, 59 Seljuks of Iran, 17–19
Reformation, 51 Semendria, fortress of, 32
Rhodes, 152 _
Sened-i Ittifak, 104
Romania, 123, 124, 142 Serbia, 22, 23, 26, 28, 29, 31, 42,
Romanus Diogenes (Romanus IV), 80, 81, 85, 91, 106, 107, 109,
Byzantine Emperor, 18 118–24, 126–30, 141
Rome, 46 Sevastopol, 118
Rumeli Hissar (European Fortress), Seven Years’ War, 92
40 Shahrokh, the Timurid ruler of
Rumeli, 6, 30, 31 Iran, 31, 32
Rusçuk Committee, 103 Sharif Husayn of Mecca, 143
Rusçuk, 96, 103, 104, 105 Shihabi family, 117
Rusdiye, 116 Shiraz, 88
Russia, 79, 82–84, 87, 91, 92, 95, Shirvan, 62, 65
98–100, 107, 109, 111, 118, Shkod€er (Iskodra), 44, 128, 141
120, 122, 131, 149 Sigismund, king of Hungary, 27,
Sabaheddin (Prince Sabaheddin/ sil^
ahdar aga, 7
Sabaheddin Bey), 138, 139 Sinan, imperial architect, 54, 161
Sinop, 44, 118 Tarhoncu Ahmed Pasa, 75, 76
ahis, 9, 67, 68, 74, 75, 77, 80, Tatars, 73, 77, 86, 91, 96, 132
82, 98–100, 120 Taurus Mountains, 43
sir k^
atibi, 7 Tehran, 17, 88
Sissek (Sisak), 62 Teke, 30
Sivas, 19, 28, 147 tekkes, 3
Skopje, 81 Tepedelenli Ali Pasa (Ali Pasa of
Slankamen, 81 Janina), 104, 107, 108, 128
Slovenia, 81 Teskilat-i M^ahsusa (Special
Sobieski, Jan, 78–80 Organization), 146
Sofia, 26, 123 Tev^ ^ Osman (Histories of
arih-i Al-i
Sofu Mehmed Pasa, 75 the Ottoman Dynasty), 47
Sokullu Mehmed Pasa, 59–62 Theodora, 23
South America, 12 Thessaly, 123, 124, 126, 129, 130
Soviet Red Army, 149 Th€ ok€
oly, Imre, 79
S€ €t, district of, 20, 21 Thrace, 23–25, 124, 126, 150, 151
Spain, 12 Three Emperor’s Alliance, 122
St. Gotthard, battle of, 78 Tiflis (Tiblisi), 88, 90, 145
Stratsimir of Vidin, John, 26 Timur (Teymur-i Lang/Tamerlane),
Sudak, 44 27–29
Sultan Ahmed Mosque, 66 tobacco, prohibition of, 73
Suvorov, 96 Topal Osman Pasa, 90
uleyman the Magnificent, 10, 13, Topkapi Palace, 11, 41, 59, 115
42, 52, 54, 61, 71, 162 Transoxiana, 17
uleyman II, 80, 81 Transylvania, 31, 32, 62, 63, 77,
uleyman Aga, chief eunuch, 75, 76 78, 81, 91
uleymaniyye Mosque, 54 treasury chamber, 7
Sweden, 78, 84 Treaty of Amasya, 54
Switzerland, 27, 137, 145 Treaty of Belgrade, 91
Sykes, Mark, 143 Treaty of Edirne, 109–11
Syria, 50, 65, 111, 112, 117, 149 Treaty of Erzurum, 108
Seriat (Sharia/Islamic Law), 2, 5, Treaty of G€ umr€ u, 149
139, 140 Treaty of H€ unk^ar Iskelesi,
Seyh Bedreddin, 29–30 111–12
Seyh Edebali, 3 Treaty of Jassy (Yassy), 99
seyhs, 47, 139 Treaty of Karlowitz, 82, 83
Sih^abeddin, 33 Treaty of K€ uç€
uk Kaynarca, 98, 99,
Tabriz, 54, 64, 67, 73, 88 Treaty of K€ utahya, 111
Tahmasp, Safavid Prince, 88, 90 Treaty of Lausanne, 151–52
Tahmasp, shah of Iran, 53, 61 Treaty of London, 142
Takrit, 27 Treaty of Paris, 118, 119
Talat Pasa, 142, 146 Treaty of Passarowitz, 85, 86
Tanzimat (Reorganization), Treaty of Qasr-i Shirin, 73, 87,
115–19, 121, 125, 131, 133 90, 91
Treaty of San Stefano, 123, 124, Van, 145
128, 129 Varna, battle of, 33
Treaty of Sevres, 148, 150 Vazag (Jalomitcha), battle of, 32
Treaty of Sistova, 99 Venice, 24, 25, 31,33, 42–43, 44,
Treaty of V^asvar, 79 47, 61, 62, 74, 79, 82
Treaty of Yenisehir, 33 Vidin, 27, 81
Treaty of Zsitvatorok Vienna, 52, 78, 79
(Zsitva-Torok), 64 Vladislav (Ladislas), king of
Trebizond, 44 Poland and Hungary, 32, 33
Tripoli, 140 Volga, 87
ugril, Seljuk ruler of Iran, 17
Tulip Period, 86, 87, 89 Wahabis, 97, 143
Tuman Bey, 50 Wallachia, 10, 27, 29, 30, 31, 34,
Tunis, 52, 60 62, 63, 81, 95, 97, 106, 107,
Tunisia, 125, 126 109, 118, 119
Turhan Sultan, 75 War of Austrian Succession, 92
Turkmenistan, 17 World War I, 53, 125, 53, 131,
Tuscany, 79 144, 145, 146, 147, 149, 152
Tvrto, king of Bosnia, 26
Yemen, 59, 72, 141
Ukraine, 78, 79 Yenisehir, 22, 45
Ulcingi (Dulcigno), 129 Young Ottomans, 133, 144
ulema, 2–4, 8, 10, 46, 47, 67, 68, Young Turks, 138, 139,
73, 74, 77, 80, 87, 88, 99, 101, 146, 147
103, 104, 116 Ypsilantis, Alexander, 107, 108
Ulubat, 30
University of Istanbul, Zaganos, 33
establishment of, 125 Zahab, plain of, 73
Uzbeks, 59, 64 Zand Dynasty, 98
Uzun Hasan, 42, 43 Z^ayanderud, 66
Zenta, 81
Vaka-ye Hayriye, 110 zimmi (dhimmi), 2
vakif (vaqf), 8, 47 Zionists, 144
alide sultan, 5 Zurawno, battle of, 78
About the Author

MEHRDAD KIA is Professor of Central and Southwest Asian History at

the University of Montana.